How It All Began
The germ of the idea that eventually evolved into what is now known as the Leaders for Health Program sprouted in the course of a strategic planning effort that the Health Unit embarked on in 2000. The concept sprung from a need to respond to the gaps that the devolution of health services had brought about in relation to the chronic health problems continually plaguing poor communities in far flung municipalities of the country. These gaps were further aggravated by the dwindling budgets and resource allocations that the health sector was receiving as well as the exodus of health professionals, particularly nurses and physicians, to higher paying jobs abroad.
The LHP, during its pilot stage, was the fruit of shared and aligned interests among the public sector (the Department of Health), a private business organization (Pfizer, Inc.) and an academic institution (Ateneo de Manila University) all seeking to contribute in effecting sustainable and far-reaching improvements in the health sector beyond the traditional methods of simply allocating funds and resources for programs and projects in communities. So as not to re-invent the wheel, LHP built on an existing program within the Department of Health (DoH) that sent volunteer physicians to poor, far flung municipalities that were doctor-less for at least two years. In partnering with both the public sector and business, the pioneers and implementers of LHP within the academe were able to concretize its various interventions using the existing network and structure that had long been in place within the DoH. In a similar way, the much needed support from the private sector partner came not only in the form of funds but also in activating their own network and existing systems that could be tapped to carry out the program in the various sites.
The Doctors to the Barrios Program (DTTB) was initiated by then Secretary Juan Flavier (now Senator) in 1993 to respond to the problem of lack of physicians in poor and hard to reach communities. This program offered an attractive incentive package to doctors who offered their services to these municipalities for a 2-yr period, under which their salaries were to be paid by the national government from sponsorships and funds raised and administered by the human resource division of the DoH.