Sunday, June 20, 2010
The people's health was one of the collateral damages of Ferdinand Marcos's 20-year dictatorial regime. During that period, people were dying of communicable but easily treatable diseases. The health care system was in disarray, with people dying without ever seeing a doctor.
To address the gap, community health based programs (CBHPs) were established throughout the country to provide badly needed medical services. CBHPs were also quick to realize that the state of the people's health was inextricably tied to the prevailing socio-economic and political conditions. Thus, CBHPs also focused on community organizing to empower the people so that they themselves could demand for a just and humane society.
While CBHPs were making head ways in providing medical services to the people and in organizing communities, two areas were overlooked: research and documentation. In an interview, Dr. Michael Tan, founder of HAIN, said that there were a lot of information needs at that time aside from training manuals. Program members brought this concern, which ultimately led to the formation of the Health Action Information Network (HAIN).
HAIN was established to provide quality researches and documentations on health. Birthing pains Like all other non-government organizations at that time, HAIN had to go through a lot of birthing pains. With its limited budget, HAIN first operated with just three staff. To get the office running, second-hand furniture and even resource materials were solicited from friends. Since CBHPs were also not used to research, trainings had to be conducted to familiarize program members.
HAIN also did not anticipate a major political event that would occur a few months after HAIN was established: the 1986 People Power Revolution, which toppled the Marcos administration. Suddenly, as Dr. Tan puts it, “the term of engagement has changed.” Since HAIN had a militant root, it was initially caught off guard by the sudden change in the political climate. Friends and allies which used to be highly critical of the Marcos regime soon occupied positions in the government. It did not take long for HAIN before the Health Department tapped its expertise on research and documentation. Caught in the euphoria created by the re-opening of democratic spaces for NGOs, HAIN was soon providing vital health information to other government agencies. HAIN had to correct itself and refocus on its original vision of providing reliable information to CBHPs and other grassroots organizations.
Nevertheless, the period provided HAIN with an opportunity to network with women's groups, consumer organizations, and linkages with international groups such as the Health Action International and the Action for Rational Drugs in Asia. While it did went back to its grassroots orientation, HAIN also maintained its working partnership with the Department of Health.
Health Alert Information Network
Containing updates, analysis, and feature articles on different health issues, Health Alert had become a flagship publication for HAIN. For quite some time, the running joke was that HAIN stood for Health Alert Information Network.
Health Alert was first published on May 1, 1985 – even before HAIN had its first office. In the early years, Health Alert was published on a weekly basis. The frequency was soon change to twice a month, but the number of pages was increased to 40. As a testament to the credibility of the information featured in the newsletter, media outlets started to pick articles from Health Alert. In 1995, Health Alert was first posted online by Ken Ilio. The publication eventually underwent a series of changes, but one thing remained constant: its contents should always provide reliable information on pressing health issues.
The publication of Health Alert was halted because of lack of fund, but it was revived in 2003 as a replacement to AIDS Action. The reformatted newsletter became Health Alert Asia-Pacific and it carried health issues with a distinctly regional flavor. The last issue of Health Alert was published in the third quarter of 2009.
At a time when Rational Drug Use (RDU) and AIDS were still below the radar of NGOs, HAIN was quietly working on these two issues. With funding from Freres des Hommes in Belgium, HAIN started to conduct a research on RDU. The first issue of The Drug
Monitor came out in February 1986, containing information on restricted drugs and diarrheals. It was also in 1986 when HAIN published the seminal AIDS booklet, Choose Life, Fight AIDS.
HAIN also sought to refocus the discussions on reproductive health (RH). At a time when much of the discussions have been strictly focused on family planning and the moral aspects of RH, HAIN reframed the discussions by linking it with primary health care, turning RH into a vital component in the attainment of a just and humane society.
In 2006, Packard provided HAIN with a grant which allows the organization to conduct a series of workshops on Religion, Gender, and Sexuality (RGS) and Spitfire communications. In particular, these two workshops have become brands of sort for HAIN; people automatically equate HAIN with the RGS and Spitfire workshops.
HAIN: Beyond 25 years
Like all other NGOs, sustainability is a key concern of HAIN. To ensure that HAIN would continue to provide quality information, researches, trainings, and publications, the organization opened its Training Academy. The Training Academy is envisioned to provide relevant trainings at a cost to participants.
In 25 years, much has changed in the political and social development scenes. Nevertheless, HAIN has shown its capability in adapting to the changing times without compromising its vision and mission. By harnessing its core strengths, HAIN will continue to exist beyond 25 years.
Source: Health Alert Special Issue, May 2010. Produced as a special publication in celebration of HAIN's 25th Anniversary. For copies of the newsletter, please email email@example.com.