A GROUP OF YOUNG medical students went out of their way to reach out to a far-flung village of Tacayan in Capiz to help eradicate the Mosquito-borne disease through Unilab’s Idea Positive, and are now calling for their fellow youth to act on their positive ideas.
In the town of Tapaz, Capiz lies a geographically isolated and disadvantaged area (GIDA) with indigenous people, Barangay Tacayan. The community faces staggering logistical challenges when it comes to the delivery of health services. It takes five hours to reach the barangay, requiring a trek across three mountains and a river. Children take this route to go to school. Mothers go through this route to give birth. Fathers pass this way every day to go to work or to buy supplies from town.
It is this path that Team Sinag chose.
Team Sinag is composed of University of the Philippines Manila medical students Leonard Tan and Chelsea Fandiñola and University of the Philippines Visayas public health students Adrian Dofitas, Gian Sampani, and Judy Parrenas, with mentor Dr. Philip Ian Padilla. One team member, Leonard, has been visiting Tacayan since 2009. He considers it his second home.
The health gap
Tacayan is the only community in Capiz that is still afflicted with filariasis, a mosquito-borne disease that causes the affected body parts to become enlarged. Leah Gialen, midwife to Tacayan and two other communities, explains, “Marami ditong sagingan na tinitirhan ng lamok. Yung filariasis galing sa lamok lilipat sa iba. Dati, hindi namin naiintindihan kung bakit lumalaki yung itlog, suso, at binti ng mga tao dito.”
Leonard explains, “Neglected tropical disease ito. It’s also the leading cause of permanent disability. ‘Yung gamot libreng pumapasok, kaya lang hindi naaabot ang Tacayan.”
Concepcion Diaz, chieftain of the Panay-Bukidnon community in Tacayan, adds, “Dito sa amin, hindi nila alam na meron silang sakit na maaaring makahawa pala sa kanilang pamilya. Hindi nila alam kung anong epekto sa buhay nila.”
Turning ideas into reality
This alarming health issue prompted Leonard to gather his friends and spark the change in Tacayan. The team joined Ideas Positive, fueled with the passion and armed with an innovative idea.
Ideas Positive is the youth engagement program of Unilab Foundation. The program encourages youth teams nationwide to come up with ideas to address community health issues. The teams with the best ideas are capacitated to turn their ideas into reality, through a boot camp and the provision of seed money of up to P100,000 for implementing their projects. By working on community health issues, youth teams contribute to Unilab Foundation’s mission of building a healthier Philippines
With their idea of eradicating filariasis in Tacayan, Team Sinag qualified as one of the top 15 teams of Ideas Positive Run 6. By maximizing their seed money and getting sponsorships, the team was able to set up a system to increase the residents’ awareness of the disease, encouraging them to take precautions, and enabling those who were infected to take medications. The team also launched educational campaigns, distributed mosquito nets to every family, and gave out protective wear to farmers.
“Nagpa-mass drug administration kami. Pinaboto namin sila ng representative per sitio, at nag-oath-taking sila. Nag-undergo din sila ng training headed by a midwife, para matuto sila mag-distribute ng gamot, mag-record-keeping, at mag-monitor ng progress,” Leonard explains.
A healthier Tacayan
The community says nobody has ever done anything like Team Sinag’s project. “Masaya kami dahil dumating yung Team Sinag dito sa barangay. ‘Yung mga tao, natuto sila, at excited na sila mag-zero yung filariasis,” Leah shares.
With their contributions to the health of the residents, all Team Sinag members were inducted as honorary residents of Tacayan. Adrian shares, “We had a goal: to stop the transmission of filariasis in Tacayan, and to educate the people on preventing this debilitating disease. But when it was time to leave, we realized that we had learned so much more from them, than they from us.”
For improving the lives of the residents of Tacayan through their project, “Oplan Tacayan: Pagtapna Sang Filaria,” Team Sinag was awarded third place at the Ideas Positive Run 6 Grand Finals last August 12.
As part of the Ideas Positive Alumni Community, Adrian actively invites the youth to make a difference. “You don’t need to wait for a sign from the universe to tell you to go and change the world. You have the power to decide. Don’t wait. You have the power to change the world, and you can start now.”
Do you have an innovative idea that can help solve a health issue in a community? Ideas Positive Run 7 is now accepting entries. Visit www.ideaspositive.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.