Calvin Silva de los Reyes

PhD Candidate and Researcher, Global Human Sciences, Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Japan

1. Could you give a brief sketch of what your current project is and how you started it? Was there one person, group or experience that encouraged you to get involved in this area?

I am currently involved with the Maternal and Child Health Handbook program. My adviser/professor specializes on the utilization and proliferation of the MCH Handbook program in Japan and in some developing countries. For my doctoral dissertation, I am working on the feasibility of utilizing the MCH Handbook among the indigenous peoples of the Philippines as a tool for health promotion.

A friend from the Philippines who works for an NGO, involved in securing the well-being of selected indigenous populations, introduced me to an indigenous community residing almost isolated from the local population. The group’s hospitality and kindness instantly made me feel connected with them. From then on, I worked with the group in developing health promotion schemes, particularly among indigenous mothers and children.

2. During the time that you began your project until now, how have your views of the people and the project changed?

The indigenous leaders and elders were at first reluctant with the introduction of the MCH Handbook. Even the local health unit was hesitant of my project. Everybody just assumed that indigenous mothers would not be capable of reading and safe-keeping the handbook. But we proved them wrong. The indigenous mothers were very enthusiastic and supportive of the project. Since we created the handbook with them, they have developed the sense of ownership of the project.

Before, most of the mothers would hide and flee for the nearby mountain during the regular visits of midwives for vaccination. They were really concerned for their children who were afraid of the needles. Since acquiring and reading the handbook, mothers became aware of the benefits of immunization. During my last visit, I even saw mothers falling in line for their child’s vaccination. This is but an example as to how they became more conscious of their and their families’ well-being.

3. What major challenges throughout the project did you face?

Since the MCH Handbook is relatively a novel public health measure in the Philippines, some health officials were hesitant of its introduction. However, upon realizing the benefits, particularly in increasing the maternal and child health knowledge of mothers, they have now reconsidered the handbook’s feasibility.

Budget will always be a concern. We are still considering ways of keeping the project sustainable in the indigenous community.

4. Can you discuss some of your major discoveries?

Involving the community, working with them side by side, is essential for the success of any health promotion efforts. The community’s knowledge level and cultural background should always be considered in designing any health measure.

5. How do you see your research impacting the lives of those you worked with (or the lives of those impacted by the issue you were researching)?

I am hoping that in the future, the community can be assured of healthier indigenous children, capable of growing as productive members of the society. Hopefully, as they become parents themselves, they could apply what they learned from their handbook through their mothers, passing it on to their children.

6. How do you see your research impacting the field of health promotion?

The MCH Handbook can be a feasible tool in promoting health not only among the general population, but also among the more marginalized members of society. I am hoping that my country would be able to consider its utilization and applicability in the future.

7. What are your plans for future work/research?

I hope to share my experiences in the field of indigenous peoples’ health and the MCH Handbook. Hopefully, I would be able to expand the project to other members of the society in the Philippines.

8. What else would you like us to know about you?

I am a movie buff. I also enjoy backpacking/travelling as long as my schedule permits me to do so.

For those who wish to learn more about the MCH Handbook movement or anything about the Philippines in general, feel free to contact me through my e-mail address: cdreyes3@yahoo.com. Also, do not hesitate to add me to your Facebook account- I am always fond of making new friends!

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