The study's objectives were: (1) To review extent of implementation of Department of health (DOH) programs/projects in GIDAs (Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas); (2) To determine the quality of health services (preventive and curative) provided in the GIDAs, including best practices and gaps; and (3) To recommend policies or program intervention/support packages to institutionalized organizational mechanisms and structures to support the development of a manual of operation. More specifically, the study looked at how indigenous peoples (IPs), which number around 10% of the Philippine people and are among the most vulnerable of sectors, fared in terms of health and services in GIDAs, many of which overlap with IP areas.
Primary investigator was the late Prof. Sabino G. Padilla, Jr., Ph.D.; the other authors are Prof. Rolando Talampas, Prof. Leonardo Estacio Jr., Prof. Laurie Ramiro, and Maria Teresa Guia Padilla. The study is an illustration of a synergy project between the academe (University of the Philippines represented by the first 4 authors and civil society (Anthropology Watch or AnthroWatch, represented by the last author). It was a multi-disciplinal team whose members had expertise in ethnography, policy studies, social research and developmental work.
Community facilitators from among the IPs themselves as well as IP researchers were trained so that the bulk of the quantitative survey was undertaken by them. Synergy was sought with the academe through the use of anthropology students for part of the filed research in Mindoro.
There were two IP areas included in the research: The Buhid of southeastern Oriental Mindoro and the Higaunon of northern Mindanao. The study was likewise a form of action research whereby the IPs involved intended to utilize the research process and data to beef up the health component of their Community Development Plans (CDPs) and contribute to further consolidating their territories.
Below are some recommendations by the Investigative team in response to significant findings:
-set up a health information and monitoring system for IPs. There is a dearth of health data disaggregated for ethnicity, as well as IP data aggregated to the macro level acceptable to health policy makers and program designers.
-produce an accurate identification of IP areas at the local government unit (LGU) level toguide LGUs in the provision of health services to them. Most IP communities are geographically hard to reach. GIDAs are identified by barangay, while IP areas do not necessarily reflect administrative boundaries and are varied (from the farthest sitio in a barangay, to spanning across several municipalities or even provinces). Not all LGUs recognize IPs in their jurisdiction.
-inculcate culture-sensitivity not only among health care providers but also at the level of policy makers. Even when health services are available, IP s hesitate to avail of them because of discriminatory attitudes of health care providers. Many health care providers automatically view indigenous healing practices as harmful.
-Find ways of providing for the additional costing entailed in providing health services to the IP areas. Many LGUs may be sympathetic to the to the more dire health situation of IPs but declare with regret that they do not have the funds to be able to provide more IP-appropriate health services.
-Emulate and propagate good practices that do exist. The provincial government of Oriental Mindoro has a Mangyan ward in its provincial hospital. Some LGUs are already receptive to listening to IP concerns including health. Having these health needs articulated in the CDP helps.
Engaging in the study already produced gains in actual policy formulation. Because of his involvement in this study, the primary investigator represented the University of the Philippines Manila in the IP Health Team headed the DOH, tasked with finalizing an IP health policy; AnthroWatch was a Team member as well. Finally in April 2013, the DOH, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Governments signed the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2013-01, or the "Guidelines on the Delivery of Basic Health Services for Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples". The current expanded IP Health Technical Team still includes University of the Philippines representatives to help in strategizing the implementation of this policy. Many recommendations of the study are reflected in the draft strategic plan.