Position: Deputy Municipal Health Officer
Organization: Municipal Health Office of Coron, Palawan
Marvin Masalunga is a Deputy Municipal Health Officer in Coron, Palawan, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the Philippines. As a rural health physician, he actively promotes family planning in partnership with both government and non-government organizations. He has spearheaded such activities as the 2015 Buntis Congress for pregnant women in Coron, youth development sessions for members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and counseling for pregnant and postpartum women. During the height of the discussions on the Philippines’ Reproductive Health Bill (now the Reproductive Health Law), he was active in the promotion of family planning, serving as the moderator in a series of film screenings dedicated to reproductive health. He earned his medical degree at the University of the Philippines Manila.
“Dr. Marvin is a Doctor to the Barrios in one of the island Municipalities of Palawan Province that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the Philippines. He visits many GIDAS and conducts trainings to communities.“
– Chi Laigo Vallido, Advocacy and Communication Specialist at Forum for FP and Development, Inc.
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.
Since my deployment as a rural health physician, I have been actively promoting family planning in partnership with both government and non-government organizations. Among the different activities I spearheaded include a Buntis (Pregnant Mother) Congress, youth development sessions (YDS) for members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Reproductive Health Forum, and counselling for pregnant and postpartum women. In order to reach out to a greater number of people, various media are utilized in these activities, including print and film. During the height of the discussions on the Reproductive Health Bill (now Reproductive Health Law), I was active in the promotion of family planning, serving as the moderator in a series of film screenings dedicated to reproductive health.
What sparked your passion for family planning?
The various issues related to reproductive health inspire me to promote family planning, especially among the poor. These issues include the increasing number of teenage pregnancies, mothers who desire a limited number of children, and the unchanging numbers of maternal, infant, and neonatal deaths. These issues can be addressed if people are aware and can access the different methods of family planning.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?
The Philippines is a largely conservative country. Religion and cultural beliefs play a significant role in the decision-making of many families. It is not uncommon to hear women refusing family planning methods because the Church is against it, or because their husbands do not approve of such methods. Constant dialogues, and counselling sessions with both the husband and wife to explain benefits of family planning, are among the steps I have undertaken to address these perceptions.
What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?
In spite of the passage of the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood Law, there remains a lot of staunch critics of the law. Some of these critics are legislators and politicians, and because of their influence, they prevent the full implementation of the RPRH Law. Constant dialogues with these individuals must be done, and with the Philippine National Elections fast approaching, it is necessary to elect individuals who will safeguard the provisions of the law.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
I aim to increase the number of women availing of family planning methods in my area of assignment. To inspire field health workers to intensify their family planning efforts, an incentive scheme should be institutionalized.
Along with other groups, I also want to lobby for an increase in the budget not only for family planning supplies but also for information, education, and communication (IEC) activities. These IEC activities will address the gaps in knowledge among the people.