The World Health Organization Western Pacific Regional Office (WHO-WPRO) recently conducted a health literacy training in partnership with Deakin University’s Prof. Richard Osborne. This training lasted for two days and involved the key stakeholders from the Department of Health, along with organizational representatives of institutions spearheading health literacy initiatives in the Philippines. EpiMetrics, Inc. was privileged to take part in the training as we are currently in our first year of applying the OPHELIA (Optimizing Health Literacy) process in the Philippines. This process was designed by WHO, Deakin University, and Monash University, and it focuses on health literacy needs assessment of communities, co-creation of interventions with the community, and implementation evaluation of those interventions with the community.

From left to right: Dr Clarissa Encisa, Research Associate, Technical Services Cluster; (back) Dr Jason Ligot, Consultant, Health Promotion and Communications, NCD, HQ; (front) Ms Maria Victoria Madura, Health Education and Promotion Officer III (HPCS); Ms Aurora Banda-Alfonso, Health Education and Promotion Officer III (HPCS); Ms. Frances Onagan; Professor Richard Osborne, Director of the Health Systems Improvement Unit, WHO Collaboration Centre for Health Literacy, Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia; Dr. Faith Alberto, Department of Health (DOH) Health Promotion and Communication Services Director; Dr Maria Carmela Mijares-Majini, Consultant, NCD and Health Promotion (DNH); Dr Stephanie Anne Co, Co-Investigator from EpiMetrics, Inc.; Ms Abigail Lim, OPHELIA Implementer and Qualitative researcher from EpiMetrics, Inc.; Dr. Ma. Carmen Tolabing, Chairperson, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of the Philippines, Manila

Health literacy in the Philippine is at a stage of growth. From seemingly very little to no interest in it, there is a current shift from the government into prioritizing this as an important tenet of health. This is clearer than ever after my participation at the WPRO health literacy training.

When I saw the invitation to the training, I was at first confused as to what the training would be about. I honestly thought that it would be a training on the OPHELIA method, much like the masterclass I had already attended last year at Deakin University. I was pleasantly surprised at the direction this training was headed. Instead of being a repeat on the OPHELIA method, what I got instead was a refresher on the definition of health literacy, and an insight into the interest of various government units into health literacy.

An important thing that we gained from the attendance in this training was that it opened up the opportunity to create networks with DOH departments that we had yet to connect with at that point, such as the Health Promotions and Communications Service (HPCS). Given the vast field experience of the new HPCS director and her team, they gave us immensely valuable tips on how to improve our approach and to cultivate a good relationship with the communities who will be part of our OPHELIA study. Furthermore, they also gave us a better picture of what is happening when it comes to health promotions on the ground in communities. Through their experience, we saw that local communities do have initiatives to improve their health outside that of national DOH campaign efforts. This is good news for us as a the most important aspect of the OPHELIA method is the co-creation and intervention phase that is largely reliant on community efforts.

This training also allowed us a chance to do a short presentation to introduce our study to government and non-government stakeholders. This was a great opportunity because at this point, most people did not understand what we were planning to achieve with the OPHELIA method in the Philippines. The training also introduced us to the study being done by UPM that will be implementing a national health literacy survey. Knowing that there are two studies being funded by the government on health literacy is a very encouraging sign that we are on the right path in our efforts to do studies that are relevant and that will potentially create impact on national policies.

Read about Abby’s insights here.

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