Developing policies and programs on health services

Bernardo Cielo, Corporate Planning Analyst, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) | Awardee, Australia Awards Scholarships

2020 Bernardo Ceilo Photo.jpgDeveloping policies and programs on health services

Bernardo Cielo
Master of Public Policy, Australian National University
Corporate Planning Analyst, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC)

Bernardo Cielo spent the community quarantine contributing to some of the 'country's significant initiatives on health policy and programs. He has been collaborating with multiple teams in charge of delivering policies and enacting programs to help increase access to health services during and after quarantine. He was part of the team that developed the Community Isolation (CIU) Benefit Package of PhilHealth, which provided access to health insurance for patients with non-severe symptoms needing isolation. He worked with the Monitoring and Evaluation Team looking into DOH's Telemedicine Regulatory Sandbox, which provided access to teleconsultations for Filipinos who needed to see a doctor but could not leave their homes due to the ECQ. And, currently, he is working on a paper with distinguished academics from De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines on approaches to response and recovery after health disasters such as COVID-19.

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Since coming into this pandemic situation, there has been increasing interests both in academic and policy circles to contribute to addressing the risks that come with dealing with a health disaster of this scale. Being affiliated with both the national social health insurer, PhilHealth, Thinkwell Philippines, and the Social Development Research Centre (SDRC) of De La Salle University, I was encouraged to participate in helping alleviate the burden of the pandemic on two fronts: I was part of multiple teams charged with developing policies and enacting programs to help increase access to health services during and after quarantine, and I was engaged  in conducting research to get ahead of the issue at hand.

I was inspired by experiences in Australia where I've seen how effectively the academe and the government can work together towards creating better policies and was urged by the learnings I've taken from my time studying at the Crawford School of Public Policy and the ANU on the importance of good social policy and network governance. 

One thing I am particularly passionate about is strengthening access to primary care in the Philippines. More often than not, the fear of paying for health services is a significant deterrent for people to seek out health services when they need it. The effect of which pushes them to seek care when the disease has progressed to a point where it either becomes lethal or so costly to treat that it pushes them further into poverty. The main thing I am looking forward to after the pandemic is to resume work in this space and to contribute to making access to primary care a reality even for the poorest of the poor. 

Additionally, I am intrigued by how the pandemic has shaped the discussions around scaling up health facilities, increasing health investments, and in investing in technology to ensure continued access to health.  I am excited at the notion that there is a new policy space. And a window of opportunity to push for the adoption of telemedicine initiatives in primary care. These conversations have been stalled for decades, and with the "new normal" reshaping demand in the health services market, there is now renewed interest to exponentially accelerate the work being done in the space.

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