Free Essay About Social Change In The Philippines
The Philippines is a developing country in SouthEast Asia and is known for their extremely jovial and hospitable citizens. The Filipino spirit is not only contagious in its joyfulness but also resilient during times of extreme hardships. Unfortunately, there are countless hardships that the Filipino people are experiencing everyday. The most difficult and yet prevalent of all hardships are poverty, corruption, and health inequities. The reason for choosing the Philippines for this paper on social change is because the country is riddled with health inequalities and yet ripe with positive possibilities. It would definitely be interesting to explore what the Philippines can actually do to rid itself of its health inequities; because knowing how the spirit of the Filipinos is indeed strong and resilient, this would indeed be quite an exploration.
The Philippines is an archipelago that consists of over 7,000 islands (Speigel, 2004). This is why its culture is so diverse and colorful -- because of all the different people living in extremely different environments. This cultural diversity is one of the most influential social determinants in the country. It is important to address the social determinants of a country because they greatly affect how the citizens view the world and live their life. And one aspect of living their life is their health. In the Philippines, one of its social determinants, as mentioned before, is its cultural diversity. A Filipino from Metro Manila is used to a culture of being modern and technologically inclined. But another Filipino from a province somewhere in South Cotabato would be more used to a culture of rural living and folk traditions.
Their cultures would then influence how they would approach issues regarding their health. If the Filipino from Metro Manila gets sick, he would go to a doctor or would buy medicine from the drug store. On the other hand, if the Filipino from the province gets sick, he would employ unorthodox provincial methods and would probably use homemade remedies made from plants around the place he is living in. The point of this is not to compare which of the two Filipinos is more correct when it comes to improving their health. The point here is to emphasize the fact that because of the different cultures in the Philippines, there are also different approaches to health issues that Filipinos experience (Williams, Alpert, Ahn, Cafferty, & Burke, 2010).
Another social determinant is religion. The Philippines is mostly a Catholic country, with more than 80% of its population being Roman Catholics (Gertler & Solon, 2002). Not only is the country mostly Catholic, its citizens are also known to be extremely religious. Thousands of Filipinos from all ages and social standings always conglomerate at the Quiapo church during the Feast of the Black Nazarene every year (Gertler& Solon, 2002). Just recently, millions of Filipinos waited the entire day under the pouring rain just to catch even a small glimpse of Pope Francis passing by (Gertler & Solon, 2002). The religious following in the Philippines is highly overwhelming. Because of this, religion—particularly the Catholic religion—definitely plays a huge role in determining how the country in general addresses its health inequities.
Another social determinant of health is social standing. The Philippines’ population consists of mostly the lower to middle class. It is a sad truth that only around 10% of the Filipino citizens can be considered as belonging to the higher class (Speigel, 2004). And in a country that has no universal health care, only the rich has adequate access to the means of maintaining and improving their health. This is why many Filipino citizens, mostly the ones that are below the poverty line, often don’t get the proper medical attention that they need. As a result, their conditions only get worse and for the least fortunate ones, they succumb to death. The great socioeconomic disparity between the rich and the poor has further increased the health inequity in the Philippines. In order to address these unfortunate health inequalities, it is first important to be able to properly address the socio-economic disparity among the wealthy and the less privileged.
According to the World Health Organization (2012, p1), the “health situation in the Philippines can be summarized in three words (a) stagnation, (b) inequality, and (c) opportunity”. The reason for this is because every health indicator in the Philippines has shown minimal improvement in the past ten years. Even worse, most of it is even seen to be growing stagnant. The life expectancy for Filipinos has also decreased to only 69 years for both sexes (WHO, 2011); for females it is 72 and for the male it is only 65 (WHO, 2013).
The Philippines’ life expectancy rate is highly disturbing. But when one looks at the current health inequities and conditions in the country, it becomes clear why their life expectancy is so low. First of all, there are high incidences of communicable diseases in the Philippines. 13 out of 17 neglected tropical diseases still remain endemic to the Philippines (WHO, 2014). Part of the reason for this can be contributed to the geographical location of the country. But the even bigger and more important part of the reason is that the country has been failing to properly address their social inequities (WHO, 2013). Their geographical location cannot be changed anymore. But what they can change are their policies and their available health care (WHO, 2014). And this is where the Philippines is highly lacking.
Another problem for the country is that other than communicable diseases, the level of non-communicable diseases have been increasing for the past few years (WHO, 2013). Even the risk factors for these diseases are extremely prevalent all around the Philippines. And to make things worse, the Philippines is also the third highest disaster prone country in the entire world (WHO, 2011). This can obviously be seen in the fact that every year, more than 20 typhoons enter the country (WHO, 2013). In the recent years, the arrival of super typhoons have been increasing in frequency. There was the typhoon Ondoy in the year 2010, typhoon Yolanda in the year 2013, and then typhoon Ruby in the year 2014 (WHO, 2014).
Once again, the reason for this is because of the geographical location of the Philippines. The archipelago is located just along the borders of the Pacific Ocean, the biggest body of water in the world. It is only scientifically reasonable that typhoons enter the country every now and then (WHO, 2014). However, typhoons don’t always have to lead to disasters when one is prepared. Unfortunately for the case of the Philippines, it always leads to a disaster. This is because the country has been failing to adopt the policies and implement the social change needed in order to prepare the nation for incoming typhoons (WHO, 2014).
Even in instances where there are no typhoons, the country is still abundant in social inequities. 50% of the Filipino population are still living on less than $2 every day (WHO, 2014). This is nowhere near enough the money that they need in order to make sure that their health is at its optimal best. And the worst and most vulnerable victims of the country’s social inequities are the children. 30% of Filipino children are iodine-deficient and severely malnourished (WHO, 2013). Once again, 30% of Filipino children under the age of five have stunted growth (WHO, 2011). Having stunted growth means that they are not able to fully grow and develop into healthy members of society. And even worse statistics show that 50% of the Filipino children are iron-deficient (WHO, 2014). All these health inequities are much more painful to look at when it is within the context of the children.
Solutions: Policies and Social Change
If the Philippines wants to save its people and its children from the devastating truth of health inequities, then it is necessary to implement policies that would change their lives for the better. The best policy that is currently being talked about and argued about by people in the Philippines is Universal Health Coverage. The current government of the Philippines, also known as the Aquino administration, has promised that Universal Health Coverage would be achieved by 2016 (Magnussen, Ehiri, & Jolly, 2004). Unfortunately, there has been no indicators of that being true.
Currently, the health coverage of Filipino citizens is under the care of PhilHealth or Social Health Insurance (Romualdez, 2013). While some Filipinos are content with PhilHealth, there are those that are heavily against it. Ramon Pedro P. Paterno (2013, p1) writes: “The Philippines’ continued adherence to a neo-liberal economic development model, its reliance on PhilHealth, and PhilHealth’s insistence on a ‘contributory scheme’ have all contributed to the protracted journey towards universal coverage”.
But what’s so great about universal health care coverage anyway? The answer lies in equality. After discussing the health problems and the health inequities that abound in the Philippines, it is clear that not only are the rich getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, but the rich are also getting healthier while the poor are simply dying (Reinert, 2008). This is because of various socio-economic differences between the two classes. In this regard, having a universal health coverage would not only close the gap between the two when it comes to health; it would definitely help in their socio-economic development as well (Banzon, 2012).
Being universal means that it is all inclusive. No matter what their age, gender, religion, or social standing, they will get the health care that they deserve and that they so badly need. This is the kind of policy that the Philippines should implement. But this health policy isn’t as simple as it sounds. It also includes economic and political policies (Albert & Collado, 2004). Take a look for example at the Reproductive Health Bill, which has now been passed in Congress after a much heated debate. The debate wasn’t just among the senators, it was also among the rest of the Filipino people (WHA, 2009). But fortunately, the health policy was passed and is now one of the ways that the Philippines is trying to solve its problems of social inequities.
What made the Reproductive Health Bill so controversial is because of the various social determinants mentioned before. Extremely traditional Catholic Filipinos were against the bill because it explicitly supported the use of contraception during the act of intercourse (Magnussen, Ehiri, & Jolly, 2004). Having their religious beliefs, they didn’t deem this to be a Catholic thing to do. And so there were riots everywhere and political arguments all over the media. But the people who were more aware and educated -- both Catholics and non-Catholics alike -- heavily supported the bill (Romualdez, 2010).They saw its advantages and they knew that passing the bill would bring the Philippines closer to fighting health inequities.
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Williams, T.P., Alpert, E.J., Ahn, R., Cafferty, E., and Burke, T.F. (2010). Sex trafficking and health care in Metro Manila: Identifying social determinants to inform an effective health system response. Health and Human Rights, 12(2), 135-147.
World Health Assembly (WHA). (2009, May). Reducing health inequities through action on the social determinants of health. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/A62/A62_R14-en.pdf?ua=1
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