Ibaloy health professionals look into plight of Muslim patients

BAGUIO CITY – There is a need for a culturally-sensitive health care delivery in the Cordillera, especially to minority migrant Muslims, according to a recent health research.

A group of Ibaloy in the health sector embarked on a study that looked into how the minority migrant group from southern Philippines is getting health services.

As a result of the study in three urban centers in the region, the group recommended among others that health delivery should be culturally sensitive, giving premium to equity, not just equality in caring for diverse groups.

The Doctors for Indigenous Health and Culturally Competent Education, Networking and Governance (Diteng) conducted a study in May to determine the health care provider preferences of Muslim patients in Cordillera.

Diteng is derived from an Ibaloy term that means health and wellness. The group Diteng is composed mainly of Ibaloy health workers and professionals.

According to Diteng, the Muslim population in Baguio City is more than 10,000.

The study called “Minority in a Minority: the Muslim Patint in the Cordillera,” also showed the experiences of the Muslim migrants in seeking health care in Baguio City, La Trinidad, Benguet and Bontoc, Mountain Province.  These are the areas of concentration of Maranao migrants, according to Dr. Ryan C. Guinaran, who initiated the research with registered nurses Junelyn M. Alawas and Rey S. Sagandoy.

Among the issues that surfaced as a result of the interview is the serving of non-halal food to Muslim patients, even when the health personnel and the hospital are aware that the patients are Muslims.

Halal does not only consist of non-pork dishes, it also involves the food preparation, according to the study.

Besides food, a female respondent complained that she was offered tubal ligation as a family-planning method.  She reportedly said that the method is a no-no in the Islamic world.

To remedy this, Muslim patients among the respondents said they just bring their food to avoid haram meats that also include dog meat and frog, which are usual food-fare in the Cordillera.  They also report to hospital personnel that they are Muslims and when given non-halal rations, they simply return it unconsumed.

Even the religious symbols in most hospital rooms are for Catholics and Christians, but the respondents just covered these with their malongs or towels, owing to the fact that they are not in a predominantly Muslim area.

Guinaran told the media during the press conference at the Department of Health that Muslims usually go to both private and public health facilities depending on the availability of money for health services.

What amazed Guinaran is that the Muslims tend to have a “suki” (frequently visited) doctor and that they usually recommend these doctors to their family and friends.

“Knowing that the Maranaos are clannish, like the Ibaloys, if they liked one doctor, all of them in the clan consult the same doctor all the time,” said Guinaran.

Language barriers between the Muslim patient and the health-care providers, occur but not to the extent of being a hindrance in obtaining health care, according to the study.  Those who could not understand nor speak Tagalog ask for interpreters.  They also request the doctors or nurses to speak Tagalog if these tend to use the lengua-franca in the region, Iloco.

For this, Diteng recommends the translation of promotion program materials into the dominant or native language of the migrant target groups.

There are those who tend to look for Muslim doctors in the hospital. Diteng recommends the employment of Muslim barangay health workers (BHWs), depending on the local government unit involved.

On top of these recommendations is the disaggregation of data on population to determine where the concentration of migrants is and to enable appropriate measures to correspond to the needs of migrants.

Meanwhile, in the same press conference the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-initiated Cordillera Regional Health Research and Development Consortium called for health research proposals pertaining to the health program priorities in the region.

The proposal should be aligned with the National Unified Health Agenda (NUHA) and is limited to P100,000 per research. Lyn V. Ramo

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