PLM participates in the First Leprosy Stakeholders Symposium

Dr Belen Dofitas was the Plenary session moderator during the 1st Leprosy Stakeholders' Symposium held last January 24,2012 at the Legend Hotel, Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Plenary presenters were Hon. Coco Quisumbing (Commission on Human Rights) and Dr Roberta Romero (Tropical Disease Foundation, Phil. Dermatological Society).

The 1st Leprosy Stakeholders Symposium was held last January 25, 2012 at the Legend Hotel, City of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. This symposium was organized by the Department of Health in cooperation with the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development and Novartis Healthcare Philippines so that the country’s major stakeholders and partners in leprosy control could brainstorm on the gaps in leprosy control and recommend strategies. The goal of the workshop was to unify and coordinate the efforts of stakeholders towards establishing leprosy –free zones in the Philippines by 2015 and to secure the commitment of the stakeholders to work towards this goal.

Philippine Leprosy Mission’s representative was Dr. Belen Dofitas, Vice-President of the Board of Trustees, who was also invited to be a Plenary session moderator of this workshop. Undersecretary of Health Dr Ted Herbosa and Hon. Coco Quisumbing of the Commission of Human Rights were speakers and actively participated in the workshop.

PALs Mr Bong Estrella, former Culion Mayor Hilarion Guia, and Dr Belen Dofitas participated in the 1st Leprosy Stakeholders' Symposium

It is noteworthy that one of the workshop recommendations was to adopt best practices such as the Partners In Leprosy Action (PILA) Program of the Philippine Leprosy Mission. PILA’s strategy caught the interest of stakeholders because it effectively detected and treated hidden cases of leprosy in its pilot areas, Ilocos Norte and Sur. This strategy aims to strengthen existing skin health services and the leprosy control program through a partnership of the private and public sectors. PILA also emphasizes the commitment of Local Chief Executives and local government units to
establish skin health and leprosy control in their areas.

At the end of the symposium, the Commitment to Action was signed. This declared that stakeholders would:

  • Promote a patient-centered community approach to support the leprosy control program, with a focus on the psycho-socio-economic wellbeing and human rights of people affected by leprosy;
  • Provide strong community and political support through Local Chief Executives and Local Government Units that will take ownership of the leprosy control program; and
  • Form public-private partnerships founded on unity, consensus and trust between primary stakeholders, major partners and concerned agencies in leprosy control.
Dr Emmy Onishi (PGH Section of Dermatology Hansen's Club coordinator), Gov. Abraham Mitra, and Dr Belen Dofitas

Stakeholders who signed the Commitment to Action were the DOH, NFSD, Novartis Healthcare Philippines, World Health Organization, Culion Foundation, Philippine Dermatological Society, Philippine Leprosy Mission, Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Interior and Local Government, Commission on Human Rights, Sorok Uni Foundation, Leonard Wood Memorial Center for Leprosy Research, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses Association of the Philippines, University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), East Avenue Medical Center, Grupo ng mga Rehistradong Pasyente na may Mahusay na Oryentasyon (GRUPO), IDEA Philippines, and Nurses Vox Health Services Cooperative.

After this symposium, we expect more partnerships and alliances for a concerted effort towards a country free of the problems caused by leprosy.