Notes from the 7th Phil National Health Research Convention

The 7th Philippine National Health Research System Week was held in Ilocos Norte a week ago.

The conference discussed the PNHRS research agenda and explored alternative pathways to advance people’s health, access and delivery in geographically disadvantaged areas and marginalized communities.

Roughly around 500 more or less number of delegates attended the three day conference.

Research Challenges in IP Communities

The pre-conference discussed some highs and lows of indigenous peoples (IP) health research.

We were able to jot down some significant points raised by panelists and participants:

Free Prior and Informed Consent is prohibitive; Create more ‘enabling mechanisms or drivers’ for IP research

– the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process is prohibitive; it delays and discourages the conduct of indigenous peoples health research.

NCIP processes and procedures appears to delay IP health research. The strict rules and procedures to obtain ‘consent’ enforced by NCIP on ‘mining application permits’ are applied to ‘research activities’. This process was considered ‘ridiculous’ by many of the participants. It could delay a research for about a year or two. It could disrupt plans and momentum of researchers and research participants.

The National Commission on Indigenous People, the Philippine National Health Research Council and IP researchers  should convene a forum to discuss the issue further.

Key actors should collaborate to design a more practical approach in securing ‘consent’ and/or ‘certifications’ to conduct research in indigenous peoples communities.

LGUs can help facilitate to improve coordination on the ground

The involvement of LGUs in the research process is critical to IP research. Partnership and Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) with local governments can improve process and coordination on the ground. It could mitigate some problems and address some challenges in practice.

IP as Co-Owners of Knowledge Generated/Created

IPs should be considered as ‘co-owners’ and ‘co-creators’ of knowledge derived in research. They must be entitled with the benefits (non-monetary/monetary) that may be obtained from research.

Forum on IP intellectual rights and heritage

A forum on IP intellectual rights, research and heritage is a good avenue to explore the issue of co-ownership. The ‘commercialization of IP knowledge systems and impact to IP health access and services’, issues of ‘pricing’ and the possibility of ‘disempowerment’ (their inability to access their own knowledge is possible) are some challenges anticipated by conference participants.  Many IP communities are known to have experienced abuses by groups, educational institutions, people’s organizations and non-government organizations. The latter get the funding and recognition without acknowledging IPs as sources of knowledge, co-creators, etc.

Theory in action, transformative research and the blurring of research and advocacy 

Tribal leaders and communities expects their “researchers” to do more than just ‘research’. More often than not researchers are seen by IP communities as ‘authorities’, ‘policy advocates’, ‘social workers’, ‘development workers’ or ‘advocates’ of their issues and causes. They view researchers as ‘communicators’ of their issues and knowledge in particular their right to access a responsive and adequate health care and government services. Their intention to share knowledge is informed by an outlook that ‘researchers’ could help them transform their lives.  They ‘see’ researchers as a ‘moral critic’ of government services and actions.

While researchers wish to see themselves as ‘testers’ and ‘creators’ of theories, indigenous peoples and marginalized communities wish them to obtain/achieve, if not outright, policy-based and program of action based solutions.

Participants tried to offer some of their outcome based solutions.

Perhaps, research in developing countries like the Philippines should adopt a more flexible and context-situated research design to create more impact .

A blurring of research and advocacy is crucial at the grassroots level.  Is advocacy an increasing feature of health research? Apparently, yes.

Folkloric narratives, ‘hero’ myths and legends is an emerging issue of health research; IP knowledge systems has the potential to disrupt current conventions of health research.

At the Phil Health Research, Paoay, Ilocos Norte, 2013

At the Phil Health Research, Paoay, Ilocos Norte, 2013

Soundbites and some things to work on Monday Morning

Here are some soundbites and policy proposals recommended by conference participants to transform health research, improve health access and service delivery:

– establish a workable/more pragmatic process to integrate ‘ethics’ in health research and the research review process;

System should allow feedback and innovation (self-assessment, external independent assessment system, ethics review committee, etc.) to occur. A strong network of ‘ethics research review committees’ could facilitate this. Panel was advised to explore more ‘ways and means’ to improve quality of health research systems and ethics.

A decentralize approach to ERC with an external independent assessment system with feedback is a plausible option.

-More research training to upgrade research capacities and mentoring for peer review and journal writing;

– Conduct roundtable discussions to explore ways for researchers to contribute more to universal health care efforts;

– Focus at sustaining partnerships at the local level;

– engage in more action research;

– funding available to encourage; accommodate more health research.


pnhrs-2013-synthesis @

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