The Philippines is the 13th largest country in the world by population. As the second largest country in Southeast Asia, it maintains the highest fertility rate in the region and the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy and poor health outcomes for newborns.
In order to address these challenges, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the ReachHealth project (2018–2023), which aims to strengthen and improve access to critical health services for Filipino families by reducing unmet needs for family planning services, decreasing teen pregnancy rate, and improving newborn morbidity and mortality across 11 regions in the Philippines. The project works to reach disadvantaged women, adolescents, and traditionally underserved populations with these services.
The USAID ReachHealth Project builds upon the success of previous USAID investments in the Philippines, including the RTI-led USAID HealthGov (2006–2013) and LuzonHealth (2013–2018) projects, which expanded access to high-quality, integrated family planning and maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition services in Luzon, the largest island region in the Philippines. Under LuzonHealth, the number of individuals using family planning services increased from 1.5 million (66 percent of the population) in 2013 to 2.1 million (68 percent) in 2017 and the number of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants increased from nearly 56 percent to 75 percent between 2013 and 2016.
As the lead implementing partner of the USAID ReachHealth Project, we provide technical assistance to:
- Increase access to comprehensive services and strengthen the capacity of healthcare workers to deliver evidence-based quality care, strengthen health systems and functionality across governance, budgeting and finance, human resources, supply chain, and data
- Improve individual, household and community knowledge of family planning and maternal and neonatal health (FP/MNH)
- Increase demand for FP/MNH services and transform gender norms
- Strengthen FP availability and commodity security.
Building local ownership to promote better maternal, neonatal, and adolescent health outcomes
We work with Philippine counterparts—such as the Department of Health (DOH), the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), civil society, and the private sector—across 32 provinces and chartered cities (called project sites), located in 11 regions, which geographically covers almost half of the Philippines’ 100+ million population.
The signing of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law in February 2019 was a significant step forward in helping everyone in the Philippines access better health care services. A critical element for success in implementing the law is a fully functioning health care provider network, organized within the province or city-wide healthcare service delivery mechanisms, funded through special health fund (SHF).
In collaboration with the World Health Organization and other USAID implementing partners, the project assisted the DOH in developing a UHC Planning Toolkit and in training of trainers nationwide. It also supported the UHC Strategic Planning and enhancement of Local Government Investment Plans for Health in 16 UHC integration sites. Currently, activities are underway to support the Philippines DOH and the local government units (LGUs) to roll out the necessary local policies and regulations for the establishment of LGUs health boards, that will be tasked with further managing the UHC implementation and financing through the SHF at the local levels.
These collaborative approaches are an important step toward building stronger health systems and a crucial catalyst in the Philippines’ journey to self-reliance.
From data to action: increasing access to quality client-centered family planning care and services
In early 2019, the USAID ReachHealth Project conducted a baseline survey that helped gather good quality data to promote evidence-based decision making. As of June 2019, over 2,000 public and private health facilities across all 32 project sites had participated in the survey.
In order to facilitate use of the data for successful decision-making, the project conducted a total of 39 Data Utilization Workshops involving almost 1,000 participants from rural health units, hospitals, and birthing facilities that had provided data in the baseline surveys. These sessions helped health facilities staff analyze the raw data for their most important family planning indicators, and determine what actions were needed to maintain or improve their levels, and what technical assistance was needed.
Recently, the project used an innovative human-centered design process to explore the root causes of teen pregnancy, surveying more than 200 teens, parents and other allies to uncover social, informational, and structural barriers to preventing teen pregnancy. Most surprisingly, this study revealed that once a teen becomes pregnant, medical and social services welcome her, but there are few resources available for teens to prevent the first pregnancy. Five prototype solutions to help prevent teenage pregnancies have been developed and will be shared with project partners and tested in the coming months.
Promoting family planning services through a national campaign
To promote and increase utilization of FP services nationwide, the USAID ReachHealth Project facilitated a workshop which resulted in creating a national communications campaign. “Usap tayo sa family planning” or “let’s talk about family planning” was launched nationwide in September 2019 and by the end of the year reached over 830,000 couples. Of these couples, almost 120,000 with unmet FP needs have been helped or referred for services.
The project has also supported the DOH in responding to the problem of commodity stock-outs experienced by several health facilities. Through continuous engagement at the national and regional levels, and with health officers from the 32 priority sites, the project contributed to lowering the average stock-outs by 37 percent—from 21.5 percent in the first quarter of 2019 to 13.5 percent in September 2019.
Continuing through 2023, the ReachHealth Project hopes to sustainably strengthen the availability and improve access to critical family planning services for Filipino families. The project has one vision:
A Philippines that breaks free from the restraints that limit the ability of a woman, man, or adolescent to seek and access high-quality, innovative, and modern FP for themselves, and necessary lifesaving interventions for pregnant mothers and their newborns.