Kaka Bag-ao: Careers in fighting COVID-19 not limited to health workers

Pauline Macaraeg
Kaka Bag-ao: Careers in fighting COVID-19 not limited to health workers
Dinagat Islands Governor Kaka Bag-ao says an effective strategy against COVID-19 employs people who come from different backgrounds

MANILA, Philippines – “Whatever your discipline is, you will always have a position to fill,” said Arlene “Kaka” J. Bag-ao, governor of the province of Dinagat Islands, as she talked about career opportunities in health management during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bag-ao, together with Dr Jillian Lee, provincial health officer of the Dinagat Islands, discussed how the small province has effectively remained COVID-19-free to date while keeping its communities’ livelihood afloat.

Dinagat Islands, composed of 7 municipalities, only has 13 doctors and no accredited hospitals. It has 3 district hospitals, which are registered as infirmaries since they lack medical and nursing staff and diagnostic facilities. (READ: In Dinagat Islands, containment is key to coronavirus response)

Yet despite the small number of medical practitioners and limited resources in the area, the small province has been able to manage the health crisis at hand – which other provinces have been struggling with.

So how did they do it? They focused on containment early on and integrated other sectors in their planning sessions.

“Because health doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” Lee said, explaining that any health crisis requires intersectoral collaboration – from health to agriculture, fisheries, retail, and all other sectors.

Bag-ao added that one of the ways they were able to effectively manage the crisis was by mobilizing citizens from different professions and work together with the same goal of fighting the virus.

“While I believe that doctors should be at the front and center of our response efforts, I also think that it is important for us to tap into the diversity of lenses and skills at our disposal,” Bag-ao said.

The governor explained that anyone who wishes to contribute to the COVID-19 response in their respective local government units can do so, regardless of their background. A person doesn’t have to hold a medical degree to be able to work in the health management system of the government.

“To guarantee an efficient and effective strategy against COVID-19, we must have actors who have backgrounds in law, community organizing, information and communication, disaster response, law enforcement, economy, accounting, and many others,” Bag-ao said.

Research work, for one, is crucial in addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Bag-ao said that even though the pandemic is very medical-related in nature, LGUs need researchers to gather data at the community level. She also noted that research work is not limited to any specific career or field.

Ang pinaka-frontline ng COVID ay wala sa hospital, nasa communities (The real frontline against COVID-19 is not in the hospital, but in the communities),” Lee added.

The discussion was the 3rd talk of the webinar series #CitizensInHealth: An Online Career Talk Series to Strengthen Our Public Health System that took place on Saturday, June 13. The online series is a collaboration of Rappler, Ateneo de Manila University, Bagumbayan Initiative, GoodGovPH, EpiMetrics, Liyab, Covid-19 Action Network Philippines, Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes (AIHO), and WeSolve Inc.

For those interested in work opportunities in the health management sector, you may visit Careers For Health Philippines, a group managed by AIHO. – Rappler.com

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is digital forensics researcher for Rappler. She started as a fact checker and researcher in 2019, before becoming part of Rappler's Digital Forensics Team. She writes about the developing digital landscape, as well as the spread and impact of disinformation and harmful online content. When she's not working, you can find her listening to podcasts or K-pop bops.