After spending the night in Sindangan, we left for Siayan early morning today to visit the Mayor of the town and her rural health workers. Siayan used to be the poorest municipality in the entire Philippines. It is now I think a 2nd or 3rd class municipality. The Main health center of Siayan was better-looking than Mutya perhaps because they have more financial resources than the previous town. But what caught my attention the most was how, after talking with the Mayor for a brief moment in her office, the Mayor was so genuinely focused on improving the health outcomes of her municipality. One intervention the Mayor did was to address the lack of health workforce in her municipality. Health workers are indispensable and it is important that our local chief executives recognize this. Because of this practical approach to addressing her health situation, the mayor was able to improve her town's health outcomes. There are still some areas that need to be improved further but just like the town of Mutya, Siayan's systems are in place.
We did a quick visit to one barangay health station in Siayan where we had tinanok nga saging. After commending the rural health workers for a job well done, we rushed back to Dipolog to catch our afternoon flight back to Manila.
I feel optimistic despite the predominating cynicism towards our local politics and health systems. It is definitely important to address the issue of leadership and governance. When our leaders are directed and guided towards prioritization of health issues, the local health systems will definitely improve. It takes a lot of transformation on the part of our politicians, most of whom are non-medical professionals, to own the responsibility for their health situation. I am a believer in the idea that to affect change, we must first and foremost intervene at the level of our leaders, make them more accountable and teach them the skills to communicate to those below them the preferred health realities.
It has been barely two weeks since I started with ZFF. I, just like our health systems, still have a long way to go.
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