The Humble Visionary
Later on, Dr. Galvez Tan would be directing programs for the United Nations Children’s Fund, sharing the talents that have benefited countless Filipinos with the world. From 1985 to 1992, he served as the Pacific and National Program Officer for the UNICEF (Phils.) Urban Basic Services Program, Nutrition, Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances, Area-Based Child Survival and Development Program. In 1995 to 1996, after his career with the Department of Health, he served as the Regional Advisor for Health and Nutrition for East Asia and the Pacific: providing technical assistance on child health and safe motherhood to 13 UNICEF Country Offices and Ministries of Health in the Region; managing the Mekong HIV-AIDS project funded by the Netherlands government; and designing and conducting annual strategic planning of the UNICEF Regional Office.
“What do Jollibee, Bench T-shirts and SM supermalls have to do with medical care?” asked Pennie dela Cruz of Inquirer Sunday Magazine twelve years ago. It turned out, the former-DOH Secretary was planning on building a “Jollibee of health”. Calling it FriendlyCare, Dok Jimmy extends his cause of a truly affordable health care to the masses by learning from successful commercial models in the country.A low-cost, high profile chain of sunny, client-friendly medical clinic where doctors don pastels instead of the sepulchral and ominous white, he conceived the clinics out of best practices culled from top moneymakers, recalling the tenet of a “business with a heart and a social purpose”. From its first clinic in Shaw Boulevard, FriendlyCare has multiplied to six clinics, including one in Cebu City and another in Davao City.
Fourteen years ago, Dok Jimmy founded Health Futures Foundation, Inc. (HFI). Running to advocate and act “in the best interest of the poorest to achieve total health and development,” HFI was to formalize his vision of empowering communities and local governments in achieving access, quality and equity in health and development.
Since its inception, HFI has been involved in the design and management of health and social development programs, health sector reviews, health policy analysis, health planning and programming, qualitative health research and health governance.
Seeing the huge health inequity existing between high income urban areas and low income rural areas, Dok Jimmy launched Alay sa Ginhawa at Kalusugan (Alaga Ka), the banner project of HFI.
Alaga Ka aims to strengthen the Philippine healthcare system through the construction and renovation of barangay health stations, along with continuing professional education of health workers in the poorest communities nationwide (in partnership with local government units and the private sector). With a successful pilot BHS in Balete, Batangas and with one being constructed in Aborlan, Palawan, the project hopes to strike out the deficits in health stations across the nation—ending a deadly disservice that leaves millions without the opportunity to seek medical attention or primary health.
In a country where seven mothers die to childbirth every day, where tuberculosis kills 63 people a week and where four out of five villages fail to reach 95% vaccination coverage, aligning a collective vision with social reality is paramount.
The problem has been the same for decades and although the country is forecasted to be among Southeast Asia’s tigers, without prioritizing the health of its people, the archipelago of 7,107 islands leans on perilous waters. The actions of Filipinos like Dok Jimmy, ever-busy and ever-consistent with his ideals to improve the lives of his countrymen, provide hope: a justifiable optimism founded on the stories and anecdotes of doctors, of intellectuals, of innovators, of citizens that take their fellow Filipinos’ weal and good at heart.
As Milton ended Paradise Lost, “For the rest,—the world was all before them, where to choose.” Dok Jimmy has chosen and unlike the rest, he chose a small spot off a great world of opportunity. Starting on that small municipality of Biliran, vaulted by tides of Samar Sea and unknown to the rest of the country, he (a young doctor who could have specialized into whatever field he likes and could have been wherever he chooses) chose to remain. He must have been weary at first of that gamble 37 years ago, when he stepped out of that limpet-and-salt-encrusted boat, but it was for him, the right decision and the best that he could have made.
Dr. Galvez Tan has greatly contributed in helping the country achieve the Millenium Development Goals. Through Alaga Ka” Project which seeks to construct and renovate barangay health stations in 5th and 6th class municipalities, Dok Jimmy has helped advocate for accessible basic health services especially in the poorest of the poor communities, which will greatly help in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, as well as providing avenues in addressing problems of communicable diseases which is still very much present in the Philippines. The project also includes training of the local health personnel especially the midwives and BHWs, and overall, this project strengthens the health care system and, in the long run, will lead to better health outcomes.
He is also one of the main proponents for the Essential Health Care Package program which aims to provide and promote access to quality health care services for all Filipinos.
Dok Jimmy is also involved in the Consuelo Project on an evidence-based study, entitled Unwanted Pregnancies: Understanding and Action in Behalf of the Poorest Women in Metro Manila, showing the need to provide access to reproductive health as a means of improving maternal health and reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
He has also actively sought solutions to address the brain drain affecting our country, proposing bilateral partnerships with Finland, Canada, and Australia to strengthen our health care system in exchange for our valuable human health resources.
With the knowledge and expertise he gained from serving the rural communities and doing projects with different organizations, his expertise has been sought and made available locally and internationally. He has worked as a consultant to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Bank, Asian Development Bank, The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Canada Fund, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Asia Foundation, Memisa (Netherlands), Cebemo (Netherlands), Misereor (Germany), Catholic Health Association of India, Asia Partnership for Human Development, Johns Hopkins University-Center for Communication Programs, Management Sciences for Health, International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, Mennonites (USA), the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Commission on Filipino Migrant Workers.
His consultancy work has ranged from health planning, health sector analysis, health policy development, health systems development, health care management, health procurement and logistics systems, public-private sector partnerships, health investment framework, program design, project appraisal, monitoring and evaluation, resource generation, capacity building and advocacy.
The countries of his consultancy work include: Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Italy, India, Indonesia, Ireland, France, Germany, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Netherlands, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Vietnam.
Dok Jimmy has actively lobbied for the rights of special/marginalized populations and indigenous peoples such as the Blaan tribe in Southern Cotabato and Sarnggani in Mindanao. He has partnered with OPTEAM, a corporation in Finland and the UP School of Health Sciences Koronadal for scholarship programs for those young and determined students from the Blaan tribe who would otherwise not be able to afford a midwifery or a nursing course education on their own.
Dok Jimmy is presently working on the LakeHEAD Project together with the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature of Japan, entitled Managing Environmental Risks to Food and Health Security in Southeast Asian Watersheds. In this project, strategies on ecological risk management for sustainable food, water, and health security in the Laguna lake region are being developed. This October, six research papers with Dok Jimmy as Principal Investigator have been accepted in the International Conference on Ecology and Health in Kunming, China. These are all papers emanating from the researches done on the Laguna Lake watershed. This is a landmark study of the effects of ecological change and environmental degradation of the watersheds of Laguna Lake on human health and nutrition
During its first year of implementation, three research papers were also accepted at the World Lakes Conference held in Austin, Texas last November 2011. This is an example of how research results are actively produced with various stakeholders and translated into doable, concrete actions. Community owned health system improvement projects is the hallmark of a responsive health system.