Press Release | 16 January 2023

The Department of Health (DOH), with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Australian Government, launched “The Wellness Movement,” an initiative that aims to support over 3,000 healthcare workers across the Philippines in improving their mental health and well-being.

Based on the global report of the WHO in October 2022, 23% to 46% of healthcare workers reported symptoms of anxiety, 20% to 37% experienced depressive symptoms, while 41% to 52% experienced burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOH’s Wellness Movement draws on practical behavioural approaches to improve the well-being of healthcare workers at their workplace and beyond. This is in line with the country’s Mental Health Act, which recommends integrating strategies promoting health in the workplace.

“Creating a mental-health positive culture in our workplaces is integral to the flourishing of not only our healthcare workers as they fulfill their role as healers, but also the cultivation of relationships among their families and friends, as they bring home healthy habits for mental health and wellness,” said Officer-in-Charge Undersecretary Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho.

The Wellness Movement was kicked off with an on-site launch at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) on 16 January. It will be followed by various virtual roll-outs of community pods in 30 public and private hospitals all over Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Community pods serve as safe spaces for healthcare workers to practice wellness individually and promote it in their workplaces.

To make it easier for them to build their wellness habits, Wellness Warriors are given an arsenal of low-cost, practical tools that are specifically designed to fit their specific needs and daily routine. Based on a pilot study, the tools made it easier for healthcare workers to practice self-care and wellness and had a positive influence on their mental health variables.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu PSM said “Australia’s support to the Philippines’ mental health and psychosocial services through Project BRAVE (Building COVID-safe Responses And Voices for Equity) is part of our larger assistance on mental health wellness in the Philippines. At the onset of the pandemic, we built on our partnerships with DOH, WHO and other UN agencies to identify sustainable solutions to these challenges and deliver practical support to health workers.”

Another important component of The Wellness Movement is to promote an organizational culture that is supportive, responsive, and empowering to its employees. The initiative includes strategies to sustain the community pods and monitor their impact on individual healthcare workers and the health facility or institution as a whole.

“Workplaces can be places of both opportunity and risk for mental health. With a profession and vocation as demanding as saving lives and caring for people, healthcare workers have been at risk of tremendous and chronic stress even before the pandemic. This innovative work with the DOH and the Australian Government is a start to explore and implement practical and scalable ways to improve the wellness and resilience of the country’s healthcare workforce at the individual and organizational levels,” said Dr. Graham Harrison, Officer-in-Charge, Office of the WHO Representative to the Philippines.