What the health sector can learn from the papal visit
There are few things that capture our national attention the way a pope does when he visits our country. His visit has cleared Metro Manila of street kids and trash faster than any mayor in the past 30 years.
People even stopped smoking, and some stores voluntarily placed liquor bans. Many lungs and livers were probably very happy about that. It was a wonderful example that political will does exist, if only for a visitor.
Beyond all the media appearances and speeches, Pope Francis made this house call specifically to attend to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). As a physician who does house calls, I can relate to giving comfort and guidance to the wounded and ailing. In many ways, the pope provided leadership to his flock, with people hanging on to every word, every action, every facial expression.
After the Pope’s visit, what can the health community learn from all that happened? Let me list some of the things we can glean from Pope Francis' recent State and Apostolic mission to the Philippines.
1. Words are powerful. Use them wisely.
Physicians and patients also know the power of words. Doctors speak with the backing of their long training and medical license. Carelessly uttered words may ruin reputations, destroy doctor-patient relationships. This is more important now, in the era of social media.
Conversely, it is important to use words to boldly speak truth to power, to censure, and to provide constructive criticism. Pope Francis did this when he spoke of the avoidance of corruption, of turning away from the evils of money, of focusing on the poor. Even as these are our own personal struggles, they are more so for our nation’s leaders. As a democratic country, we should use our freedom of speech wisely.
2. When properly motivated, Filipinos can be disciplined.
Imagine a gathering marked by peace and order, where people picked up their trash, and looked after each other. Imagine this to be a huge Filipino gathering of millions, from different walks of life. Everyone knows that this would be a modern day miracle, and it happened during Pope Francis’ visit. Well, except for the trash part.
Now extend our imagination further: How about we maintain this type of order year round, long after the papal visit?
An orderly nation translates to better health. With less traffic translating to less stress, and more efficient services translating to better quality of life, efficiency is the mark of a healthy country. It is no wonder that we see prolonged life expectancies in countries with discipline. Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and other nations don’t seem to require much to enforce order.
Discipline has been an ingrained culture for them, a process of civilization. Here, it takes tough words and political will…or the pope himself. Or maybe it should just take a national commitment to a better future
3. It’s not about the person, it’s about his message. Lead by service.
On multiple occasions, the Pope has admonished Filipinos not to give much attention to him, but to Christ, who he represents. He asked us to take down posters and tarpaulins of his image, and replace them with Christ’s. Can you imagine a doctor’s clinic without all the certificates and accolades on the walls? Health care shouldn’t be about self-aggrandizement of health care workers, it should be about leading by serving.
Expanding from beyond the clinic to our own country, we know that there are so many of our leaders rushing to place themselves on posters, tarpaulins, programs, and buildings. They use taxpayers’ money to put their faces and names on barangay ambulances, hospitals, and roads. They have earned the label “epal," and deservedly so. This isn’t leading by serving, but leading by posting.
With the 2016 election looming, and filing of certificates of candidacy coming this October, perhaps we should focus on the message of our leaders, instead of their personal lives. Perhaps, it shouldn’t be about their family name, or their celebrity status but their platforms.
Perhaps, we should ask the harder questions: Did they lead by serving? What have they done for health care? Did they make things better?
I hope our country moves toward real reform and change. Sana hindi ito pakitang Papa lamang. (I hope we don't just pretend for Pope's sake) - Rappler.com
Dr Adrian Paul Rabe is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. He was the youngest to pass the Philippine Medical Board and the Philippine Specialty Board of Internal Medicine. He is now a consultant for health policy and evidence-based medicine, primarily pursuing the implementation of Universal Health Care.
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