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TOWARDS UNITY FOR HEALTH IN MEDICAL EDUCATION: a case from the Philippines

The call for “Health for All” articulated in the Alma Ata Charter is a formidable goal but with great potential for triggering convergence towards “Unity for Health”. But 20 years after this charter’s inception, the need for health reforms convergence bringing medical schools on board is still in want. Although medical schools have been highly criticized as isolated “ivory towers”, lacking in proactive contributions to society’s health needs, academic institutions actually have the potential to address the complex issues of health unity and therefore can create synergies between the community, health professionals, health managers, and policy makers towards ‘Unity for Health”. We report here, the convergence of various stakeholders in establishing an innovative medical school in the Southern Philippines.

Health in our Region:

Nearly one third of the Philippines 72 million people live on Mindanao Island. Zamboanga City (pop.0.5 million) is the hub for services in Western Mindanao and Sulu Archipelago (pop.3.5million), one of the most under served areas of the Southern Pacific. Seventy percent of the people live in rural densely populated shorelines of the islands. Travel is predominantly by boat, access to inland areas is mostly by foot.

Neonatal tetanus, measles, typhoid, cholera, dengue fever, tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections are major problems. The fertility rate is about 5 and infant mortality is more than 75 per 1000 births. Safe water, balanced nutrition, prenatal care and full immunization remain long term health goals. There are 28 medical schools in the Philippines but none in this region and few physicians are willing to move to this under resourced area.

Planning a Medical school for unity of health and development:

Against this background and aware of the challenge of starting a new school with very limited resource, consultations between the community, the health pr