Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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University of the Philippines Manila Community Health and Development Program

Elizabeth Paterno, MD MPH

The Community Health and Development Program (CHDP) of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila implements community-based health programs to serve both community needs and the university’s training goals. Such programs become the sites of community immersion courses offered by all academic units of the university. The CHDP has two main objectives: (1) to provide faculty and students with opportunities to learn the principles and practice of community health and development; and (2) to assist communities attain increasing capacities for health system strengthening and community development using the primary health care (PHC) approach. 

Full project description: 

In 2007, the Community Health and Development Program (CHDP) was inaugurated as the unit of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila mandated to forge partnerships with rural communities. These partnerships are set up to maintain community-based health programs that would serve both community needs and the university’s training goals. This program becomes the site of community immersion courses offered by all academic units of the university, namely the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Allied Medical Professions (occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech pathology) and Arts and Sciences.

The program’s conceptual framework, which was developed and agreed upon by all participating colleges, emphasizes that genuine improvement in community health and development should be one of the most important outcomes of every university-community partnership:

The University of the Philippines, with the articulated vision to ‘lead as a public service university’ (UP Charter 2008, Section 3d) enters into a partnership with the community, bringing with it its various resources to work towards development that will include health. The underlying principle that guides this development work is the primary health care (PHC) approach as articulated in the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration, which recognizes health as a basic human right. PHC aims to enable populations to have access to the essential promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health care they need. Socioeconomic development is seen as a requirement for the attainment of health for all and people’s participation is of key importance for success. For development to be comprehensive, different health disciplines and sectors outside health are involved in the program in an integrated manner, and identified social determinants of health, such as the lack of income opportunities and environmental issues, are analysed and addressed. As a partner, the community is not treated as a classroom, which implies that academic curricula for students brought in by the university are not rigid and adhere to the goals agreed upon with the community. Likewise the community is not looked upon as laboratory tools and guinea pigs, nor are community members treated as charity cases for dole out services; such an outlook would rob the community of its dignity (Blumenthal, 2004). The partnership should result in a healthier, more developed and empowered community, while the university gains more experience and insights to become a better instrument of national development.

Students and faculty engage in activities that depend on the goals and targets agreed upon with the municipality and communities. Some of the examples include:

  1. Health activities
    1. Direct health services (assisting the municipality conduct clinics in the rural health unit and village health stations, conducting home visits)
    2. Health human resource development (training of nurses, midwives, village health workers and other auxiliary health workers in the municipality)
    3. Special health projects like:
      1. Development of herbal medicine gardens to augment the supply of medicines
      2. Anti-dengue campaigns
      3. School health programs
      4. Community-based diabetes Program
  2. Environmental activities
    1. Solid waste management
    2. Natural resources inventory
    3. Educational drives on the sustainable use of natural resources
  3. Community-based livelihood programs

Since 2007, the CHDP has completed a program with one municipality and is presently engaged in a partnership with 5 municipalities. Outcomes from the first partnership include strengthened health system building blocks (improved health skills of local health workers, introduction of a computerized health information system, improved health management skills among local government leaders, etc.), development of a culture of interprofessional education in the university, and proper orientation of university students on how rural health systems work.


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