COVID-19 brought drastic changes in the multidimensional facets of life of every Filipino. Health protocols were established to prevent the spread of the virus that caused the life-threatening disease. Health-promoting activities and health education were sought with unparalleled intensity to understand the spread and prevention of the disease, management of exposed and infected individuals, and addressing issues on COVID-19 vaccination.
In response to these challenges, the University of Santo Tomas, through the SIMBAHAYAN Community Development Office, initiated a health advocacy project with the theme, “We H.E.A.L. (Hope-Educate-Advocate-Live) as One.”
This project aimed to: raise people’s awareness and social responsibilities in achieving herd immunity of the country through mass immunization and health education; promote healthy lifestyles; develop the capability to take actions on health needs in this time of the health crisis; and uplift the morale and spirit in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Siglang Tomas Cluster is a university-wide community development advocacy for health. It is composed of six academic units with each unit headed by a community development coordinator.
The six academic units and their respective community development coordinators are: Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, represented by Assoc. Prof. Ma. Teresa Tricia Guison-Bautista; College of Nursing, by Mr. Jayson A. Punzal; Faculty of Pharmacy, by Asst. Prof. Grace Marie Alunan-Maclan; College of Rehabilitation Sciences, by Asst. Prof. Christian Rimando; Institute of Religion, by Mr. John Paul T. Balanguit; and Ecclesiastical Faculties, by Ms. Cecilia Rebelyn A. Flores.
This year’s advocacy was chaired by Mr. Jayson A. Punzal, from the College of Nursing. The theme of the advocacy was highlighted by the different daily activities. The event was officially opened by UST SIMBAHAYAN Community Development Office Director Asst. Prof. Froilan A. Alipao, who speech focused on illuminating HOPE in times of health crisis.
Dr. Armine Lee Supnet, a resident doctor of the UST Hospital from the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, shared his fight against COVID-19. He inspired participants from UST and its partner communities to have courage and constantly have strength for their family and loved ones.
Concurrent on the first day of the event was the start of telemedicine facilitated by the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery through the initiative of Dr. Ma. Teresa Tricia Guison-Bautista.
This set the bar as the first online consultation activity conducted with the partner communities of the university to address their health care needs. The free online consultation was attended by several doctors and specialists from the said faculty and assisted by medical clerks, UST Educational Technology Center staff, and UST SIMBAHAYAN personnel.
Medical services like general consultation, surgery, obstetrics, dermatology, internal medicine, family medicine and others, were provided. The telemedicine activity was held for three days.
On its second day, the day’s theme was EDUCATE and ADVOCATE. The activities were a combination of medical and social outlooks that rationalized the issues and concerns on the COVID-19 vaccine through the webinar titled “COVID-19 Puksain, Bakuna Ating Alamin.”
Dr. Christopher Rey Dacanay of the UST Hospital discussed the different vaccine compositions, formulation, safety, efficacy, expected side effects and the importance of getting vaccinated in achieving herd immunity. Asst. Prof. Carol Pablo of the Faculty of Pharmacy highlighted the social impact of COVID-19 vaccination. Both speakers used Filipino as the medium of communication which made the webinar more understandable and meaningful to all participants.
To LIVE in the new normal would be the greatest challenge. This was the theme of the third day. A morning talk show with title “Kalusugan at Kagalingan Ngayong Panahon ng Covid-19 Pandemic” was hosted by Ms. Archelle Jane C. Tiuseco and Ms. Jordan P. Nava from the College of Rehabilitation Sciences. Speakers from different disciplines shared their expertise in the holistic promotion of healthy lifestyle and well-being amidst the pandemic such as physical wellness, nutrition and dietary recommendation, psychospiritual wellness in relation to coping and surviving, and achieving the state of health and well-being.
The advocacy project was concluded with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist presided over by UST Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs Rev. Fr. Pablo T. Tiong, O.P. A tribute to the frontliners followed, organized by the Institute of Religion and Ecclesiastical Faculties.
The participants’ take-away from the event included learning how to coordinate and communicate with the doctor and staff during online consultation, importance of getting vaccinated, alleviation of fears and anxiety towards COVID-19 vaccination, accessibility of services such as health care remotely with the use of technology and the importance social wellness in maintaining healthy lifestyle during pandemic.