MANILA, OCTOBER 8, 2011 (STAR) By Susan Claire Agbayani - It was his first plane ride. But all that Dominador Lomibao, 52, could think of was “Where’s the bus?”

The bus is the Department of Health’s (DOH) mobile vehicle called Lakbay Buhay Kalusugan (LBK). And Mang Domeng is its official driver.

The LBK bus was transported to Pier 15 of Bacolod City, Negros Occidental after its Luzon leg. Mang Domeng would pick it up and drive all the way to Sagay City where nearly 2,000 residents were expected to benefit from a two-day caravan of health information and services.

LBK is DOH’s way of delivering critical health information to remote communities. Aligned with the Aquino Health Agenda of Universal Health Access for all Filipinos, the LBK uses a fiesta setting to inform mothers and fathers about safe motherhood, child health care and nutrition, birth spacing, and healthy lifestyle.

The LBK bus is just one of the attractions of the health fiesta. It was customized to be a consultation clinic for pregnant women and their children.

Mang Domeng is a retired employee of Victory Liner. When the company donated one of its buses to DOH, it highly recommended Mang Domeng to the crucial post of LBK driver. Mang Domeng would soon discover why he would become not just any bus driver.

The bus is a health fiesta on wheels.

“Dati, nagdra-drive ako papunta’t-pabalik ng Pangasinan o Baguio, at meron akong konduktor o stewardess. Pero dito sa LBK, ako rin nagtatatak sa mga ID ng mga buntis kapag tapos na silang magpatingin sa mga duktora (I used to drive to and from Pangasinan and Baguio with a conductor or stewardess. But here in LBK, I stamp the IDs of the pregnant women once they’re done with their consultations with the doctors),” Mang Domeng says.

From Sagay City, Mang Domeng had driven the LBK bus to Bohol, Bukidnon, and Compostela Valley. Since its maiden trip in Tarlac in March, the LBK has delivered critical health information to over 15,000 people from poor communities.

“Living a healthy life is a journey,” says Health Secretary Enrique Ona. “This is what LBK symbolizes. And in this journey, we are not mere passengers but drivers of our own health and nutrition.”

LBK is an innovative platform in the delivery of health messages and services to communities utilizing fun and current-day approaches in ways that people enjoy and are familiar with. In every stop, there are interactive exhibits, mini-classes, and fun activities such as read-alongs for children, videoke singing, games and variety shows.

LBK encourages expectant mothers to have regular pre-natal checkups, families to bring their children to the doctor for complete immunization, and couples to seek information and counseling on family planning and healthy lifestyle.

Fun activities during the health caravan include read-alongs for kids.

During the LBK events, Mang Domeng would get the chance to speak to mothers and make them comfortable as they wait for their turn to receive a pre-natal or post-partum check-up.

“It was my first time to see a bus with two rooms for check-ups and two rooms for consultations for pregnant women,” gushes Evangeline Buenavidez, 32, from Sagay City. “I am happy that I was able to attend and listen to many lectures on how to keep a good, healthy body. I went home happy since I learned a lot.”

Learning in an atmosphere of fun is not how health workers like Luz Mahinay, 36, usually do health education. Luz was one of the barangay health workers who acted as a tour guide for the clients. A tour around LBK includes a check-up at the bus, a walk through an interactive health exhibit, and sitting through short lectures on maternal and child health and nutrition. The tour is capped off with a variety show where participants sing and dance and get queried on key health messages they picked up during the tour.

“Kapoy (tired) but happy,” Luz remarks at the end of the day.

Dr. Irma Asuncion, director of the National Center for Health Promotion (NCHP), the communication arm of the DOH, says: “DOH believes that good health should be celebrated. If we are healthy, we are happy. Through LBK we are reminded that we are responsible for our own health. Na walang iwanan sa biyaheng kalusugan (No one should be left behind in the journey to good health).”

Interactive educational exhibits and seminars.

DOH designed LBK to get people thinking about their health and nutrition. After the LBK bus rolls out, the real work for both families and health service providers begins.

Just a month after LBK in Sagay City, midwife Bernaditha Tan has already seen a spike in the number of women coming for their pre-natal check up. “My clients are now voluntarily going to the health center.”

This is why the Sagay City Health Office is planning to replicate the LBK experience.

“Information dissemination through a health fiesta effectively reaches out to our clients. We are currently working out a local version of LBK to deliver the same set of health messages and formats in our other barangays,” says Dr. Sharlene Sy, municipal health officer.

In South Cotabato, Governor Arthur Pingoy Jr. has committed one of the province’s buses to be customized as an LBK bus. The LBK caravan will arrive on Oct. 6 in the town of T’boli.

Mang Domeng looks forward to other trips of LBK this year. Aside from South Cotabato, LBK will also be hosted in Maguindanao and Zamboanga del Norte.

“Iba-iba bawa’t biyahe pero pare-parehong nagiging successful sa pagtutulungan at pagsasama ng lahat (Each trip is different but becomes equally successful because of everybody’s cooperation and partnership.)”

“Public-private partnerships are essential to universal health care,” says Secretary Ona.

LBK is a model of public-private partnerships that are forged for health promotion, communication and education. It is made possible by a partnership among DOH, the local government units, US Agency for International Development, and private partners such as the Doña Marta T. Hernandez Foundation of Victory Liner, Melawares, Air21, OMF Literature, Dakila Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, Manila Broadcasting Company, UNTV, Center for Community Journalism and Development, Philippine Press Institute, the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates International, Inc.

For Mang Domeng, LBK has been quite a ride. And it’s one journey that he hopes never ends.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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