2011 Ecohealth sa Aurora Conference-Workshop

September 1, 2011 at Aurora State College of Technology Training in Baler, Aurora.

Human and environmental health always go hand in hand, thus the Ecohealth concept. In 2009, the Aurora State College of Technology (ASCOT) conducted a workshop known as “Ecohealth sa Aurora” with participation of fisherfolk and barangay health workers. Aurora is a coastal province with seven of its eight municipalities situated along the coast. At the gathering, participants confirmed the findings of the Provincial Health Office that lack of access to potable water, and poor sewage and solid waste disposal, are the primary environmental and health problems. Other major concerns identified included dwindling fish catches and polluted or silted waters. It is not surprising that the most common ailments identified were diarrhea, flu and kidney infection and it was also noted that fisherfolk eat less fish than the village health workers; probably an indication that fisherfolk sell all of their dwindling catches of fish to purchase rice rather than setting aside fish for their own families to eat. Workshop participants identified the following solutions: good ecological solid waste and sewerage management systems to be put in place including segregation schemes and landfill sites; implementation of livelihood, local environmental protection, and sanitation programs; education and information dissemination; family planning and policies on health and population control.

Building on the results of that workshop, the 2011 Aurora Ecohealth Conference-workshop was held on September 1, 2011, again at the Aurora State College of Technology Training Hall. This follow-up activity was jointly sponsored by ASCOT, the Aurora Provincial Health Office, the Office of Senator Edgardo J. Angara, and DALUHAY through CA- PAMANA 2012. Whereas the 2009 Symposium focused on priorities and perspectives involving province-wide fisherfolk and health workers, the 2011 Workshop objectives included formulation of a vision, strategies and action plans to address the prioritized challenges and realize the proposed solutions for some of the linked human-health/environmental challenges. Seven of the eight provincial municipalities were represented (excepting Casiguran) by village health workers and fisherfolk, as well as several PAMANA leaders from across the country. Participants shared experiences in their home communities to help promote best practice transfer of successes to less developed communities.

To set the tone of the conference-workshop, ASCOT President Dr. Eusebio Angara welcomed all participants and explained the commitment of ASCOT towards helping improve the health of both people and the environment. Dr. Louie Teh provided input on the health challenges facing Aurora coastal communities and how this can be better addressed through partnerships with the local communities who will be implementing the desired actions themselves with the help of the provincial and municipal governments and also hopefully engaging the private sector. Dr. Marivic Pajaro discussed the significance of seeking solutions to improve the quality of life by means of looking through the lens of both the environment and health which in the case of Aurora’s predominantly coastal communities depend also on the Sierra Madre mountains for water, food and livelihood. For this reason, taking an integrated Ecohealth approach from the mountains to the sea is prudent. To facilitate visioning, strategizing and action planning, Mr. Joey Ayala, an internationally recognized artist who is an environmentalist, singer and composer with the Bagong Lumad Artists Foundation, provided inputs on social artistry that helped draw out from the participants, their ideas in a simple, fun and less formal manner which is otherwise done in academic or classroom settings. Implementing the outputs and conclusions from this meeting is being pursued by DALUHAY in partnership with ASCOT and the Aurora Provincial Government.