by Dr Madeline Mae Ong of Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health

The Universal Healthcare Act in the Philippines (RA 11223) was passed in February 2019 to provide an evidence-based approach to forecasting demand for health services and to assess the effectiveness of preventive and curative interventions. The need for such an approach has become even more apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic where mathematical models have been used to guide public health and mobility interventions as well as estimating demand for healthcare services. 

Addressing this need as a premise, the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH), together with partners from the Public Health England (PHE) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), jointly hosted the Newton Researcher Links Workshop, ‘Utilising Mathematical Modelling to Aid Governance in Universal Healthcare in the Philippines.’The two-week workshop, held from 11 to 29 July 2021, aimed to build capacity among Filipino researchers and policymakers in basic mathematical modelling and in utilising it for health policy in the context of Universal Healthcare in the Philippines. Thirty participants attended (Figure 1) from varying medical and mathematical backgrounds.

 Dr Manual M. Dayrit, former Philippine health secretary and adjunct professor at ASMPH, opened the workshop, introducing the Philippine healthcare system and Universal Healthcare.
Dr Emilia Vynnycky, Professor Richard White and Dr Nicky McCreesh from the LSHTM then facilitated the short course An Introduction to Infectious Disease Modelling and its Applications. The course focused on the art and science of using mathematical models to learn infection movements through populations. Networking sessions with lecturers and international participants also took place over the course. These were complemented with lectures on Covid-19 modelling in the Philippines and modelling Universal Healthcare, given by mathematical modellers Dr Elvira de Lara-Tuprio and Dr Rina Estuar of the Ateneo de Manila University, respectively.
Participants worked in small groups and prepared capsule research proposals to apply their knowledge on mathematical modelling on any UHC-related problem in the Philippines. They presented these proposals, which ranged from Covid-19 to tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases such as schistosomiasis and dengue. 
The final activity was an open-for-public webcast on translating mathematical models to health policy, delivered by panellists Dr Elvira de Lara-Tuprio, Dr Rina Estuar, Dr Beverly Ho of the Philippine Department of Health, and Dr Mark Jit of the LSHTM and moderated by Dr Manuel Dayrit. 

Figure 1. Map of Workshop participants according to institutional affiliation.

Figure 2. Workshop organisers, partners, lecturers, and participants.  

Participants appreciated the breadth of resource persons who engagingly presented technical and specialised mathematical theory to an audience of varied mathematical backgrounds. They also noted the workshop’s flexibility and asynchronous design, as well as the opportunity to collaborate among researchers in the Philippines and overseas. 

Since the workshop, participants have disseminated learnings to their institutions and networks. Through the workshop and its subsequent dissemination activities, an environment conducive to evidence-based implementation of Universal Healthcare can be progressively created to give quality healthcare for all Filipinos.  

The Newton Researcher Links Workshops form part of the Newton Agham Programme co-funded by the British Council and the Department of Science and Technology.