I may be biased, but I believe a nation must be generally healthy to become progressive. And a government which puts a premium on public health is better poised for progress. Having said that, though, one should not always depend on the government for one’s health and wellness.
Being healthy and well is actually a decision we make individually. After all, we enjoy, but frequently abuse, our freedom: to smoke or not to smoke; to exercise or be sedentary; to eat healthy food or junk; to consult a physician when we’re sick or to self-medicate; to clean our surroundings or allow them to become a breeding place for all sorts of microbes.
That’s why it’s good to have role models in health, exemplars who go beyond the call of duty to educate, guide and empower people to make the right choices and decisions concerning their health, so diseases could be prevented. And when these diseases are already present, they try to fill in the healthcare gap to render service, especially for the marginalized sectors of society.
Some of these health exemplars and champions will again be honored in the 3rd H&L Health Exemplar Awards tomorrow, March 22. This biennial award is given by the medical advisory board (MAB) and editorial staff of H&L (Health and Lifestyle) magazine.
The H&L MAB, which is composed of the country’s who’s who in the field of medicine, scrutinizes the contributions of the nominees who have passed the preliminary evaluation of the screening committee, and decides on the awardees.
The awards recognize individuals, institutions, governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, media entities and others who have effectively carried out activities and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle, health promotion, and positive health-seeking behavior.
These programs have favorable influences on the public’s diet and nutrition, exercise and fitness, smoking cessation, relaxation and stress control, hygiene and cleanliness. The awardees’ contributions are recognized for the positive impact on health and wellness they have achieved in their respective communities or the entire population.
To be awarded as health exemplars this year are Dr. Juan Sanchez, Dr. Richard Mata, Dr. Edgardo Ulysses Dorotheo, Dr. Iris Isip-Tan and the Mu Sigma Phi of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.
To be given special citations for their contributions to public health are Dr. Faith Guirnela-Go, Rosamy “Jing” Castañeda-Velasco and the Hepatology Society of the Philippines.
Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas, the doctor-volunteer to a far flung barrio in northern Mindanao who was killed by a gunman last March 1, will also be given a posthumous award for his zeal and dedication as a health worker. He could have sought greener pastures elsewhere, but he chose to stay and serve the poor people in the barrio, some of whom only enjoyed the services of a doctor when he came.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial will deliver the keynote address at the awarding ceremonies. This year’s board of judges are composed of Dr. Ramon Abarquez Jr., Dr. Augusto Litonjua, Dr. Adolfo Bellosillo, Dr. Abdias Aquino, Dr. Bien Cabral, Dr. Willie Ong and Dr. Bibly Macaya.
Dr. Sanchez, a noted surgeon, is the brains behind the innovative Mobile Surgical Unit for which he gained the moniker as the “Doctor on Wheels.” He has spearheaded medical-surgical missions in many underserved areas in the country, performing various types of surgeries for free for the last 15 years.
Dr. Mata has helped curb the rise in dengue cases in the country with his nationwide health education seminars and workshops for health workers and community leaders, training them on initiatives to prevent dengue in their respective communities.
With his unstinting advocacy against smoking, Dr. Dorotheo has been actively involved in various global campaigns for tobacco control. He was one of the outspoken advocates for the Sin Tax Reform law, as well as the inclusion of graphic health warnings in cigarette packages.
Dr. Isip-Tan is cited as a health educator and “influencer.” With her expertise in health informatics, she has adeptly harnessed social media to promote health literacy and positive behavior in the public.
The Mu Sigma Phi Sorority of the UP College of Medicine is recognized for its various projects serving indigent patients, and for its various health education campaigns such as the Women Empowerment and Literacy through Health Education (WEALTH).
The Hepatology Society of the Philippines will receive a special citation for effectively addressing the lack of public knowledge on hepatitis B, correcting misconceptions leading to a stigma for those who carry the virus, and to delayed treatment, leading to liver cancer and end-stage liver disease. This was achieved through their scientific research, extensive continuing medical education programs (Liver Caravan Symposia), and campaigns for newborn vaccination against hepatitis B.
Dr. Guirnela-Go is recognized for the public education forums she has helped organize in her hometown in Oroquieta City, as well as other towns in Misamis Occidental, under the auspices of the Foundation for Lay Education on Heart Diseases Inc.
Popular broadcast journalist Jing Castañeda will be given a special citation for her strong advocacy for a healthy lifestyle and other health-promotion programs. She and her TV network have also helped people in dire need of medical assistance, particularly children who are physically abused, maltreated and require treatment for their medical ailments through Bantay Bata (Child Watch), of which she is the program director.
These health exemplars are truly a blessing to our people. May their tribe increase.