MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) in the Ilocos Region conducted a five-day Capacity Building program for Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) in Pangasinan, training them to serve as Health Education and Promotion Officers (HEPOs) at the grassroots level. The training, held from August 28, 2023, to September 1, 2023, in Bolinao, Pangasinan, focused on the seven Priority Areas outlined in the DOH’s Health Promotion Framework Strategy.

The event was attended by 78 BHW federation presidents and aimed to provide insights and guidance on their new role as barangay HEPOs. BHWs learned how to develop activities and programs to address the seven priority areas, which include nutrition and physical activity, environmental health, immunization, substance use, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and violence and injury prevention within their communities.

Assistant Regional Director Rodolfo Antonio M. Albornoz emphasized the importance of empowering BHWs in their role as Health Promotion Officers, stating, “Our BHWs will spearhead the implementation of these programs in their respective communities, and it is crucial that they understand their new role in promoting health, mitigating health risk factors, and achieving the well-being of the residents they serve.”

“Under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, the Health Promotion Framework Strategy (HPFS) serves as a roadmap for health promotion policies, programs, and activities at various levels. In this roadmap, one of the action areas for localizing the HPFS in LGUs is designating BHWs as on-the-ground HEPOs.”

Currently, there are 13,700 BHWs in the province of Pangasinan who will be responsible for implementing and promoting these health programs within their communities.

Dr. Cheryl D. Buhong, Head of the Regional Health Promotion Unit, emphasized that “Health for All” begins with health promotion. She stated, “After the training, we expect that every participant will be able to share their new knowledge and skills with their fellow BHWs. This includes recognizing social determinants of health, improving interpersonal communication and counseling skills, social and behavioral change communication skills, risk communication, and social listening skills.”

“This training will also enable them to collaborate effectively with other primary care provider networks within their municipalities to ensure the successful implementation of health promotion policies, programs, and activities at the barangay level.”

BHWs will conduct health promotion activities based on the DOH Community Health Promotion Playbook Volume 1, covering topics such as diet and exercise, environmental health, immunization, substance use, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and violence and injury prevention.

Mr. Leonardo DG. Idos, a 58-year-old male BHW and the federation president in the town of Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, expressed his gratitude to the DOH for their ongoing support in enhancing their knowledge and skills. He said, “Salamat po sa patuloy na pagpapaunlad ng aming kaalaman upang maitaguyod pa namin ng mabuti ang aming mga tungkulin bilang tagapangalaga ng kalusugan sa aming mga barangay. Mas lumawak pa ang aking kaalaman ngayon sa pagpapatupad ng iba’t-ibang programa ng DOH, at makakaasa po kayo na ipapatupad ko at ibabahagi ang mga natutunan ko sa aking mga kasamang BHW.”

Effective skills, applied knowledge, and a positive attitude are essential for BHWs to fulfill their roles efficiently. President Ferdinand ‘Bong-Bong’ Marcos is currently advocating for the passage of the Magna Carta for BHWs, one of the priority bills of his administration, to improve their conditions and provide them with more benefits and incentives. (ai/mnm)