Trailblazers in the field of public health. This was how the organizers of Champions for Health Governance (CHG) Awards described this year’s national winners.

Tacurong, the only city among the five awardees, is joined by four other municipalities of del Carmen in Surigao del Norte, Ipil in Zamboaga Sibugay, Jimenez in Misamis Occidental, and Cervantes in Ilocos Sur. Notably, four of the winners came from Mindanao.

The winning Local Government Units (LGUs) received their prizes during the awarding rites held at the C3 Events Place in Greenhills, San Juan on May 29, 2015. Apart from the plaques, each winner received cash prizes amounting to P100 Thousand plus P500 Thousand worth of medical supplies and materials.

Mayor Lina Montilla, Vice Mayor Joseph Lechonsito, and City Health Officer Giovanni Deles received the award.
Aside from subscribing to the principles of participatory governance and universal health care, Tacurong’s innovations on health governance paved way for its becoming a champion. Tacurong’s ‘City Hall sa Barangay’ Project, which aims to bring the services of the LGU right at the doorsteps of constituents of even the remotest barangays, is a practice that made health services accessible to the poor.

Meanwhile, the ordinance requiring pregnant women to give birth to health facilities resulted to the absence of maternal and child mortality in the last four years. The legislation providing security of tenure to the community volunteer health workers and giving them second grade civil service eligibility after five years of continuous service also boosted Tacurong’s case to get a spot in the Top 5 national winners.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, the event’s keynote speaker, congratulated the outstanding health programs of the awardees. “For me, if somebody would ask what is the most important thing in life, the answer should be health; because if you’re not healthy, you cannot live a meaningful and productive life”, Senator Guingona said. “But being healthy and staying healthy is not cheap and easy; social disparity is apparent when it comes to health. I’m very glad that we have LGUs that are in the forefront of promoting health”.

CHG Awards, already in its second run since its debut in 2013, aims to recognize cities and municipalities for their excellent health governance and programs that contribute to achieving universal health care for all Filipinos, particularly in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing maternal and child mortality and the burdens of infectious diseases.

The CHG Awards is organized by the global pharmaceutical company of Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance & Ethical Leadership, and the Jesse Robredo Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Participating LGUs are judged based on the effectiveness and innovativeness of their health programs, management of health resources, community engagement, local leadership, and transparency and accountability. Each LGU should also have no adverse report from the Commission on Audit.

Sixty (60) LGUs submitted entries for this year’s search but the road to being declared champions had not been easy. Each entry had to go through the long and arduous screening process. Of the 60 applicants, only 25 entries survived the eligibility screening.

The Top 25 underwent another thorough screening process aimed at trimming down the entries to twelve. All twelve finalists went through the site evaluation and validation from the whole month of April up until the first week of May. The last step before choosing the five champions was the panel interview in Manila. During the interview, each finalist had a fifteen-minute presentation and another fifteen-minute question-and-answer portion with regard to health programs and best practices.

“Through the CHG Awards, we wanted make sure that the trailblazing activities and efforts of the champion LGUs will be recognized and eventually replicated all over the country”, said Harvey Keh, co-convenor of Kaya Natin Movement who also hosted the awarding rites. “Imagine if all LGUs would be able to implement their public health programs properly, then I’m sure our health indicators including our MDGs will be easily met.”

Congresswoman Leni Robredo, chairperson of the Jesse Robredo Foundation, said that the CHG Awards is in support to the Foundation’s aim of promoting development through empowering local communities.

“Jesse believed that the progress of our nation depends on the local government units”, Congresswoman Robredo said while addressing the awardees. ““Aside from appreciating and giving a reward for all the efforts that you did, we hope that through this award, you will be able to inspire more mayors and more local government officials to do the same”. (Allan Freno, LGU Tacurong City Information)