Barangay Matandang Balara is one of the biggest barangays in Metro Manila. Majority of the residents of this barangay (around 70-80 percent) belong to the lower strata of the income group. Considering the size and the financial status of the barangay, public health is a big issue that is waiting to be tackled.
Given the living conditions of most of the barangay’s residents, it is not a surprise to discover that most of the most prevalent diseases are either transmitted by contact or originates from the unhygienic environment.
Assessing the barangay’s health care system will prove to be beneficial to the residents, the barangay officials and the local government as well. This study can help the concerned parties address the problem properly. This will also be a vehicle for the community to voice out their necessities. Public awareness is also a major purpose of this paper.
Background: Socio-Political Profile
Name: Barangay Matandang Balara
Date Created: May 10, 1962
Land Area: 521.6842 hectares
Total Population: 70,112 inhabitants
Number of Households: 15, 807
Barangay Hall: Barangay Matandang Balara Hall
Health Center: Old Balara Health Center
Police Stations: Barangay Police Community Precinct
- 1. Luzon Avenue (Areas 1-9)
- 2. Villa Beatriz
- 3. Laura Street
- 4. North Zuzuaregui Street
- 5. Sitio Payong (Areas 1-4)
- 6. Sta. Elena Compound
- 7. Dupax Street
- 8. Liwanag Street
- 9. Pook De La Paz Street
- 10. Feria Community
- 11. South Zuzuaregui Street
- 12. Calderon
- 13. #254 Commonwealth Avenue
- 14. Visayan Hills
- 15. Sapang Kangkong (#168 Road 2 & #164 Interior 2)
- 16. Lakas Street
- 17. Tandang Sora Avenue
Interviews with Barangay Health Center personnel and Barangay Officials were conducted. A total of 4 persons were interviewed for this study: Public Head Nurse Edgar Almoguerra, Medical Officer Charissa Alisuag, Barangay Health Council Head Nida Sistona and Barangay Captain Beda Torrecampo. Photos were taken and relevant documents (on barangay demographics, cases of morbidity, etc.) were also collected and reviewed.
Overview of Health Situation
Old Balara is faced with numerous concerns on health. Its officials and medical staff are burdened with issues such as ensuring the prevention of pollution, maintenance of sanitation, providing the people with adequate medical supplies for the health center and giving them enough knowledge on dealing with different diseases.
Considering that 70-80% of the barangay’s population is destitute, it is apparent that the area lacks sufficient resources and adequate facilities for effective sanitation.
These are the common illnesses that are said to affect the Old Balara population the most:
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•I. Sources of Sickness
•A. Inadequate Medical Supplies
The medical personnel in the Old Balara Health Center are limited to the supply of medicine being brought in. In the interview held with the medical staff, they emphasized that the supplies of Amoxicillin and TB related medicines were quite insufficient, even with the government providing them with medicine every quarter. The medicines they receive only live through the first month leaving them confounded and at a loss, especially in cases of emergency.
•B. Insufficiencies of the Health Center
The health center is located beside a church along the busy street of Balara. The main entrance is barred. However, a side entrance now serves as the main, with a sewage line along its pathway. The ventilation of the health center is very poor. There are only a few windows and most of them are shut. The overall appearance of the health center is grimy, worn out and requires a complete renovation.
Being the health center of one of the biggest barangays in Metro Manila, it is relatively small compared to those of the other areas. The average number of patients they receive daily usually amounts to a hundred. However, they are unable to accommodate everyone due to the small size of the center. The perimeter is so limited to the point that they are compelled to do patient examinations outside the facility wherein they have an additional “extended” waiting area comprised of mono bloc benches along the gutter.
Another issue regarding the center’s interior would be the leaks coming from the ceilings and various areas of the center. These leaks are a problem because they can lead to infection of equipment as well as become a source of disease. According to Doctor Alisuag, the doctor working at the health center, their former laboratory became hazardous and a source of contamination because of its improper maintenance. The medical staff’s performance and the patients are greatly affected by these hindrances.
•C. Pollution and Other Environmental Factors
Besides the need for additional supplies of medicine and proper maintenance of the health center, pollution and other environmental factors also contribute to the health problems of Barangay Matandang Balara.
Most of the diseases caught by the community are caused by bacteria. Given that sanitation is a major problem in the barangay, bacteria could be easily spread throughout the area because of the people’s lack in discipline. Land pollution in forms of biodegradable and non-biodegradable trash seen all around creates a breeding ground for bacteria. In addition to that, Barangay Matandang Balara is located within busy streets full of public transportations. The air pollution from jeeps, buses and tricycles help spread bacteria and develop its growth.
•D. Lack of Community & Government Cooperation
In the interview with Mrs. Nida Sistona (Head of the Health Council), she stated that sanitation is one of the priorities of the Health Council and that the barangay officials are in fact aware of the problems regarding the health system within the barangay. As mentioned earlier, the insufficient funds and supplies provided by the local government hinder the possibilities of reinforcing health awareness among the population. Their only option is to make do with whatever is available. They have difficulties promoting proper sanitation and encouraging the community effectively. Even though they give small scale talks and cleanup projects to do this, the people themselves lack the initiative to do their part in maintaining a clean environment.
•II. Ways of Dealing with Sickness
Although the barangay has very serious health issues, it also has some strong points. The barangay takes full priority of health issues and tries to act on them as best as they can. In general they have a good amount of medicine for curing fevers, colds and other low-level diseases. The medical center itself provides weekly outreaches for the more depressed areas in the barangay which include feeding programs, free vaccination and handouts of medicine.
It has gained the support of 20 percent of upper class community wherein donations in the form of supplies and money are obtained. Various schools, like Lyceum, FEU, UP and UST, have made monthly outreach programs to support the medical center in catering the different medical needs of the people. The schools also provide supplies to the health center which could be seen as a beneficial relationship between the students who, in return for their support, learn useful lessons from the medical staff.
The local government of Matandang Balara provides different kinds of seminars for the community. Among these are the Prenatal Health Care Seminar, Barangay Clean-up and Dengue seminar. These serve as an effective way for the community to be aware of these health issues that they could be involved in.
Most importantly, the medical staff and volunteers’ dedication plays a big role in improving the barangay’s health dilemma. This might seem to be a small matter but through their dedication and perseverance to help their community is definitely a beginning of better possibilities.
Role of Institutions
Aside from the health barangay workers and health center volunteers, various institutions also take active part in providing financial support and delivering basic health services to the barangay. These institutions are composed of schools such as the University of the Philippines Diliman, University of Santo Tomas, Lyceum College of the Philippine and non-government organizations such as The Rotary Club. They assist in the seminars and outreaches and some, notably the nursing students from Lyceum College, even conduct their own feeding programs.
Health Awareness, Seminars & Outreach Programs
Officials and the medical staff are one in saying that health awareness and education play a vital role in the barangay health system. As such, the Barangay Office and the Health center provide a number of health awareness programs to increase the residents’ knowledge of different health issues and inform them on ways of addressing them. Likewise, through these activities, residents can also participate in educating fellow members of their community.
The health center, for instance, conducts seminars on responsible parenthood, family planning, and reproductive health issues. These are done on six different areas, namely, Luzon Avenue, San Rafael, Villa Beatriz, Feria, and Sitio Payong Area. Since majority of the workers in the health center are volunteers, there are also seminars geared towards training them. It also conducts outreach programs to provide basic health consultation and services to poor communities. Staff members visit homes to promote clinic services and provide free food and vaccinations as well as conduct prenatal and dental check-ups.
On the other hand, the Barangay Office carries out dengue prevention and prenatal seminars, TB and breast awareness programs.
Barangay Old Balara has been trying to fight diseases and to keep its residents healthy. But the elimination of these diseases has proved to be problematic. Although the residents are employing the help of the barangay health center to stay healthy, their living environment and their lifestyles basically stays unclean. The health officials, on the other hand, are bound by their limited resources and cannot help as much residents they want to. Furthermore, the local government and other institutions are doing their best in participating in this fight against diseases but it is evident that their efforts are inefficient.
Public awareness is a significant factor in the promotion of health in the barangay. People should first recognize the problem before it can be properly dealt with. Here, we see that financing the health projects is a major hindrance in promoting health. Through public awareness, people can be encouraged to help financially. Moreover, there are a lot of NGO’s who are willing to help if something like this catches their attention. The sanitation of the whole community lies in the cooperation of all the parties concerned. Each sector (the residents, health officials, and local government officials) should each do their own part. It is not up to one sector to clean everything up; cooperation is the key.