The second phase of the Philippine Health Agenda kicked off in Pasay City through the "Last Mile Towards Universal Health Care" where several government hospitals from Metro Manila provided medical services to street dwellers and the urban poor - the so-called "unreached" segment of the population.

The programme "Saan mang sulok, kalusugan maaabot", aims to cater to populations that have not received sufficient health care in the past. 

“We identified [those who need the programme], those in geo-isolated areas or those in hard to reach areas, indigenous people (IPs), people in institutions such as jails, the urban poor and street dwellers. Here, [for the launch], we have people from Manila and Pasay,” Secretary of Health Paulyn Ubial told reporters during the launch.

In particular, the programme aims to elevate health awareness, adopt-a-community project, and bring medical services to the people.

Government hospitals in Metro Manila provided the services for the National Capital Region (NCR) leg.

The hospitals’ representatives set up different “health stations” such as ENT, dental care, family planning, and child care, among others, where participants can sit down for consults.

Reaching the unreached

The Phase II of the programme launched in 2016 is meant to provide health check ups for the 20 million poorest Filipinos,” Secretary Ubial said.

After the mass check ups, the department identified 15,300 individuals who need surgical intervention. In June, the department responded with the ‘Surgical Caravan’ project which rolled out in different provinces to provide free surgical treatment for patients. So far, the Secretary revealed that 10,000 people have already undergone surgery.

For ‘The Last Mile’ programme, there will be check ups, nutritional counselling, supplementary feeding, health promotion through education, exhibits and video presentation, information dissemination on the adopt-a-community/ hospital strategy, and enrollment to PhilHealth, the state health insurer.

The Secretary also said that she has given instructions to regional offices to map out their “unreached” populations, conduct forums with stakeholders, and make a visit at least twice a year.

The Last Mile

Both the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) launched the “Last Mile” concept which focused on the poorest of the poor.

“We need new approaches that target and prioritize the ‘Last Mile’ and this includes the poorest of the poor, but also the household, sub-national, and small enterprise levels that are underserved and excluded, where development needs are greatest, and where resources are most scarce,” according to the UNDP .

The Last Mile concept is one way of achieving the Sustainable Developmental Growth (SGD), noted the agency.

A government doctors examines a young urban dweller who participated in the

A government doctors examines a young urban dweller who participated in the "Last Mile" project of the DOH.

Next stops

After the NCR launch, The Last Mile will visit Region III to serve indigenous people (IPs) on September 16, then simultaneous launch for institutionalized populations in Region VII and geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in Region X or Misamis Oriental on September 15.

Health services will be provided by the regions’ local health units, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will identify the recipients of the health care services from their list of beneficiaries.

NCR-based participating hospitals include East Avenue Medical Center, Rizal Medical Center, San Lorenzo Ruiz Hospital, Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, National Children's Hospital, Pasay City General Hospital, Valenzuela Medical Center, Amang Rodriguez Hospital, Philippine Children's Medical Center, National Center for Mental Health, and the Quirino Memorial Medical Center.

Apart from PhilHealth and DSWD, other agencies involved are the National Nutrition Council and the University of the Philippines - Manila Philippine Eye Research Institution.

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