The Official Publication of Volunteer Youth Leaders for Health - Philippines

A Humble Contribution: Advocacy into Policy

Written by Stephen Bryan Bongcaras* - VYLH-Philippines Bohol

RARE. The best word that I could use to describe the most recent milestone that I have achieved as a Volunteer Youth Leader (VYL) for health.

Just a brief history: I am Stephen Bryan Yu Bongcaras. An incoming senior student of Holy Name University, Tagbilaran City, Bohol taking up Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Last July 2010, I got a RARE chance of being chosen to represent our university for the VYLH Visayas Island-wide Camp.

"A RARE Advocate" that is how people call me in my province every time I try to lobby the advocacy of the organization since they can't believe that a volunteer-advocate like me is existing, and an organization such as VYLH-Philippines exists too! I honestly had a hard time in pursuing similar activities done by other volunteers in their area. I just wish I have someone standing with me in all efforts that I do for the organization.

I had a lot of attempts. I tried to build a core group, but it failed because I can't present an organized structure of the organization and there is no honest funding source when we plan for activities. I tried linking with a network of BHWs and still failed as they say there should be a mandate from DOH or the Local Government Unit.

I rarely feel insecure. But I felt so seeing lots of posts and blogs about big VYLH events. I just can't see myself doing as much activities as other volunteers are. But despite insecurity, GREAT SINCERITY is what I have for the advocacy and the organization. As a lecturer for reproductive health, I always insert the topic on Folic Acid Supplementation in my talks and a little introduction of the organization itself. I also bring with me a signature campaign sheet in support of the Rare Disease Act for all my audience to sign up. But i still feel so incomplete and discontented of what I am doing.

Until a RARE opportunity came. The National Youth Parliament (NYP) is a 3-day biennial convention of youth leaders wherein policy recommendations are formulated to address youth issues, and serve as government’s guide in policy formulation and program development. I was both lucky and honored to be chosen to be one of the 160 parliamentarians for the 9th National Youth Parliament which was held in Naga City, Camarines Sur.

In the parliament, we were assigned a committee to work on resolutions that can solve problems of the youth for a certain aspect of life. As a health advocate, I opted to register under the Committee on Health and Wellness. This is one RARE chance for me to put my advocacy into policy. And so, I pushed for a resolution calling the DILG and DOH to strengthen the maternal, children and youth-friendly services in all health centers in the Philippines. I also took this opportunity to mainstream in the resolution the importance of Folic acid supplementation and newborn screening to prevent neural tube defects and mental retardation (P. RESOLUTION NO. NYP-09-12-17 S.2012, clause 12-13) .

It was a great joy when this resolution was approved in the plenary. Humbly, I can say that the Lord has a great plan for all of us and that we serve one great unique purpose in life. And for VYLH, I may have not conducted as much activities as I am expected to, but at most, I believe this is an important contribution that may bring forth a nationwide effect.

**The following is the NYP Resolution mentioned in this article.

Republic of the Philippines
9TH National Youth Parliament
Series 2012

WHEREAS, the Philippines is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Convention Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Millennium Development Goal particularly Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women (MDG3), Reduce Child Mortality (MDG 4), Improve Maternal Health (MDG 5), and Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases (MDG 6). 
WHEREAS, Article II of 1987 Constitution provides that “the state shall protect the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them”;
WHEREAS, one of the Aquino Health Agenda (AHA) Strategic thrusts is “to ensure that all Filipinos should have an access to professional health care providers capable of meeting their health care needs at appropriate level of care”;
WHEREAS, the AHA promulgates “to utilize  the life-cycle approach when providing needed services such as family planning, antenatal care, delivery and health facilities, essential newborn care and immediate postpartum care“; 
WHEREAS, the Philippine Development Plan targets on the main thrusts of the Universal Health Care approach pertained to programs on health insurances, nutrition and reproductive health;
WHEREAS, the Philippines is committed to the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women, RA 9262 Violence Against Women and their Children Act;
WHEREAS, the current generation of young people are the largest demographic group in the Philippine history with equal rights, risks and aspirations (CITATION);
WHEREAS, it was projected that in 2020, 30 million women will be within reproductive ages 15-49 years old (National Coordinating Screening Office); 
WHEREAS, 54% or 1.9 million pregnancies are unintended and 560,000 of these pregnancies ended in abortion and 90,000 women were hospitalized after these abortions and 1,000 died from abortion complications and 1,600 more died from births and miscarriages (Likhaan Center for Women’s Health et. al., 2009);
WHEREAS, in 2008 infant mortality rate was 25 out of 1,000 live births and in 2010 maternal mortality rate  was  95-163 out of 100,000 live births (Department of Health, Population Commission); 
WHEREAS, as of 2010 in a survey of the National Coordinating Screening Office, annually, there are approximately 7.8 million children affected with birth defects worldwide;
WHEREAS, increasing awareness of supplementation of folic acid among pregnant women will help to prevent neural tube defects;
WHEREAS, the resolution seeks to increase public awareness in saving babies from mental retardation and death through R.A. 9288 (Newborn Screening Act of 2004);
WHEREAS, all health care facilities shall accommodate all women and young people regardless of economic status, ethnicity and race, age, religion, health status, sexual orientation and gender identities seeking health needs;
WHEREAS, the resolution seeks to the majority who want smaller families, to promote equity for poor families, to guarantee funding for equal access to health facilities, to prevent induced abortion, to give accurate and positive sexuality education to young people, to reduce breast and cervical cancer deaths, and to save money that can be used for even more social spending;
WHEREAS, the resolution seeks to support and deploy more public midwives, nurses, and doctors;
WHEREAS, the Department of Health and Local Government Units shall appropriate adequate funds to provide support for the program and implementing rules on a continuing sustained basis;
RESOLVED AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that the resolution shall call Local Government Units to strengthen the maternal-, children-, and youth-friendly health care services of all health centers in the country. 
RESOLVED FURTHER, coverage of care to be given to all pregnant women shall focus on family planning, health promotion, risk elimination, disease prevention and disease treatment and management. 
RESOLVED FINALLY, that copies of the resolution shall be given to the respective Local Government Units.

ADOPTED: this 5th day of May 2012, Naga City

**Copy provided by the blog author.
*Stephen Bongcaras is a Senior Nursing Student at Holy Name University in Tagbilaran City, Bohol. He was affiliated to the network as one of the K4 volunteers during the VYLH-Philippines Visayas Island-wide Youth Camp last July 2010. During the recently concluded National Youth Parliament, He was elected as the Secretary General.


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