Editorial: Prioritize community-based public health

Editorial: Prioritize community-based public health
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

Welcome news is the recent opening of the Super Family Health Center in Barangay Apas, Cebu City.

Will this translate to better public health?

Last July 1, a ceremony took place to finally open the facility to the public.

The P13-million center had been in mothballs for two years due to various issues, such as the lack of an occupancy permit, according to the July 1 report of SunStar Cebu interns, Eva Joy Bugas of the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu and Glaiza Ouano of UP Tacloban.

The Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas Director Jaime Bernadas said that the Super Family Health Center provides a complete package of medical services and medicine for primary care.

Bernadas said that the first facility of this kind in Central Visayas is aimed at catering to the health needs of communities in the northern barangays of Cebu City.

X-ray, ultrasound, and other medical services are essential to save lives and prevent injuries and ailments from exacerbating. However, the costs are often too high for many Filipinos, daunting them from seeking these diagnostic medical services.

The Super Family Health Center also has a pharmacy that will provide free medicine. Many ailing Filipinos who cannot afford resort to folk cures or just prematurely stop the prescribed treatment.

The Center’s staff of doctors, nurses, and medical technologists, as well as the free medicine, may curtail the risky practice of self-medication or avoidance of medical consultation among citizens who have limited resources.

However, the most important strategy of promoting public health is through education and disease prevention. The Super Family Health Center can contribute to the dissemination of correct and timely information, education, and communication of health facts, beliefs, and practices at the grass roots.

Prevention remains to be the best approach to health.

Health campaigns have underscored the need to educate the public about the pro-active programs of health promotion: complete immunization for infants and children, prenatal care to reduce the risks to mothers and their infants, good nutrition and wellness, and the prevention of disease and road accidents.

National and local authorities and institutions supporting the nationwide upgrading of rural health units to super health centers must collaborate with other stakeholders to improve the delivery of services, particularly in areas that are neglected or not adequately addressed.

The promotion of mental health for all citizens is one of those health priorities that must be championed.

The DOH, the Cebu City Government, and other stakeholders must reach out to private and non-government partners to provide psychological assessment, counselling, therapy, and debriefing to persons and families in crisis.

Due to many social factors, the risks of depression, self-harm, violence, suicide, and other maladies are escalated because the importance of mental health and well-being is misunderstood or ignored, due largely to lack of awareness and resources to seek mental health specialists.

Barangay Lahug inaugurated in 2019 the first Barangay Behavioral Health Unit (BBHU). The strategy of setting up community-based facilities addressing mental health and wellness surfaced in the public’s attention, especially during the Duterte administration’s War on Drugs campaign. Illegal substance addiction is not just a peace and order issue but a public health crisis.

Education about this essential frontline service of mental health and wellness needs to be boosted because many Filipinos and families do not just have inadequate knowledge about mental health but also harbor biases and presumptions that this is not a priority or becomes only one among the well-off.

To make Filipinos healthy at all fronts—physical, mental, and psychological—much work remains to be done.

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