The power of action: Youth challenged to shape a better Manila

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Gelo Apostol says forming a prayer group in intensive care unit wards can lessen mortality rates.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A photo of a prescription was projected on the screen.

“What is wrong with this?” medicine student and youth leader Gelo Apostol asked nearly a hundred young people assembled at the Impact Hub in Makati. Everything, however, seems in order.

The diagnosis was correct and the antibiotic prescribed was the appropriate dosage for her age, he explained, but why did 5-year-old Katkat keep on returning for the same lung ailment?

It was a question that touched on the complex issue of public health in poor communities. But what can nearly a hundred Filipino millennials do to solve age-old problems of great intensity such as this?

A lot, apparently, if you ask the Manila Hub of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community. They are a group of young people from diverse backgrounds seeking to make a positive impact in their respective fields of expertise.

One need only to look at history to see how young people can effect change in society. Andres Bonifacio was 28 years old when he founded the Katipunan against the Spanish colonizers. Most of those behind the Propaganda Movement’s paper La Solidaridad were in their 20s like Jose Rizal, Mariano Ponce, and Antonio Luna, among others.

The young people who assembled last February 4, talked about designing possible solutions to an array of problems they feel passionate about may it be education, food security, or waste management.

Passion for public health

Health, Apostol said, defines life and its quality. This is why he is passionate about public health and universal health care.

“[U]ntil we reshape and redefine how Filipinos think, feel, and behave about health and how health services are delivered to them, only then can we serve equity in health, life and development."

He founded iTAYO NA!, a community development platform on leadership, community organizing, social enterprise development, and primary health care delivery.

Apostol pointed out that considering health determinants — which could be biological, socioeconomic, or psychosocial, among others in nature —  should be part of the diagnosis.

Living in a poor community, too poor to even buy a teaspoon needed in administering the medicine, Katkat wasn’t able to drink the right dosage.

Showing a photo of important aspects involved in public health, Apostol showed how people are in the center of it.

02_Health4.jpg This intricate intricate web shows the aspects influential to public health. (Photo by Mikas Matsuzawa)  

“DOH (Department of Health), believe it or not, is the least influential aspect or factor when it comes to discussions about public health,” he said.

Apostol added that efforts as simple as forming a prayer group in intensive care unit wards can lessen mortality rates.

“Most of the health interventions today have focused on health education. There’s this thing called the ‘Pyramid of Health Impact.’ According ‘Pyramid of Health Impact,’ it is actually health education and health care that produces the least amount of impact when it comes to population health,” he said.

“A case in point, in Chile, they have shown that ongoing health education programs actually produced less impacts than when they instituted building bike lanes. In Switzerland as well, they have shown that building bike lanes alone produced greater health outcomes compared to actual health services and health education programs,” he added.

Shaping better cities

Apostol was just one of the four young leaders who posed the challenge of shaping a better city.

Other speakers include farmer and agri-social entrepreneur Cherrie Atilano; educator and social entrepreneur Lynn Pinugu; and internationally-acclaimed film director, writer, and producer Pepe Diokno.

With less than three months away before the elections, they called on the young people — a formidable bulk of the electorate this coming polls — to consider what they want to see from the country’s leaders and themselves in the next six years.