Empathy: Many Families Can’t Afford Healthcare


Dr. Paolo Medina, Assistant Professor (Community Medicine), University of the Philippines College of Medicine

It hurts to see patients who look bad. I attended to children with pneumonia. They were having severe symptoms because their parents didn’t bring them to the health center right away. But I couldn’t blame them. I imagined myself in their positions; that because they’re so poor, they had to attend to other urgent concerns.

I was the community doctor of Alabat, an island community so poor and isolated, the people there can barely afford to feed themselves. My health center staff and I were the only health workers for the people of the town.

In cases of emergency, it would get scary. The government hospital on the island is more of an infirmary, lacking equipment and staff. The better hospital is on the mainland, which is a boat ride away! They can better treatment for pneumonia there. There is no sea ambulance. If we’re lucky, we might catch the boat that make regular trips. But boat trips can be unaffordable to many families.

I teach Community Medicine now and one of the things I want my students to learn is not to victim blame. I try to teach empathy. What is the context? Why didn’t the parents want their kids confined in hospitals even though they needed it? Why did they insist that we cure their kids using what’s available even if it’s not enough? It’s because they couldn’t afford to prioritize health, especially if it means out-of-pocket expenses. Simply put, the treatment for pneumonia is too expensive for many families. I see it as a manifestation of injustice and inequity when patients who live in poor communities don’t have access to quality healthcare. It’s really painful to see how their access to health services is lacking.

Translated from Tagalog


A Fair Shot for All Kids

Pneumonia is the leading cause of childhood deaths for the Philippines and many developing nations. Unfortunately, pneumonia vaccination remains unaffordable for many families. How might we empower the Filipino diaspora to pressure pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and GSK, to drop the price of pneumonia vaccination?

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