Equity Initiative’s Asia Trek Focuses on the Philippines

The second cohort of Equity Initiative Fellows embarked on the Asia Trek component of their fellowship program, which was held August 13-20 in Manila, Philippines. Asia Trek is a one-week experiential immersion in the region with exposure to key health actors and policymakers. It enables Fellows to examine global health equity issues through a regional lens, with the goal of sparking dialogue, critical thinking, and problem analysis.

Asia Trek 2017 focused on urban health and equity challenges in deprived communities. The Fellows began their week in the Philippines at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with an orientation on the social determinants of health in the Philippines. Later in the week, Eduardo Banzon, senior health specialist at ADB, facilitated a panel discussion on regional perspectives on urban health, which included Mary Racelis (Ateneo de Manila University), Corazon “Dinky” Juliano-Soliman (former Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development), and Senator Risa Hontiveros.

The Fellows split into field visit groups for in-depth interactions with community organizations in Metro Manila that centered around four key urban equity challenges: a vulnerable youth program model (Community and Family Services International); a community-based rehabilitation program for youth with disabilities (Independent Living Learning Center and REACH Foundation); a community-organizing program for informal dwellers (Urban Poor Associates and Community Organizers Multiversity); and a social entrepreneurship program for urban poor women (Rags2Riches). These visits gave Fellows on-the-ground exposure to complex health equity issues as well as the dedication needed to build sustainability and resilience within these communities.

Leadership training continued during Asia Trek, with a session on communicating equity and the art of storytelling. Ernesto Garilao (Zuellig Family Foundation), Governor of Bataan Albert Garcia, and Mayor of Salcedo Melchor Mergal introduced the Bridging Leadership framework, which promotes collaborative action to bring about social change. Chris Oechsli, CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, spoke with the Fellows about founder Chuck Feeney’s “giving while living” philosophy and the Atlantic Fellows program. The Fellows ended their trip with a museum tour of the Pinto Art Museum, hosted by neurologist Dr. Joven Cuanang.

Asia Trek gave many of the Fellows their first introduction to the Philippines, and all of the Fellows left with a greater understanding of its social challenges and the ways in which solutions are being developed to promote health equity.