POLICY

Community-based mental health, sikolohiyang Pilipino, and implementation science are core to my public health approach to policymaking. My hope is to improve the lives of people with mental health problems and to promote mental wellbeing through engaging in policy research, translating evidence into local policy, and exploring human factors that promote or hinder uptake of evidence-informed practice.

 
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mental health

It is an exciting time for mental health in the Philippines! I have been part of the legislative discussions in both the Senate and Congress and of the implementing rules and regulations now in the Department of Health. But one thing remains unclear: is the law truly community-based? While it is a significant step forward, it seems ameliorative - providing much needed services closer to those who need them the most but retaining the fundamental power imbalance and 'illness model' so common in our local health care system. Patients and their families are 'empowered' in name only. The key strategic advantage I hold is that I am both a mental health professional and a health policy expert. My policy work in this area advocates for a transformative change in the mental health care system, for the deliberate integration of sikoloyihang Pilipino, and for the active use of lessons from implementation science.

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sexual orientation, gender identity and expression

There is a lot of work to be done in protecting sexual minorities in the country. For decision makers, I offer evidence-informed, solution-oriented recommendations, including political risks and opportunities for supporting the rights and mental wellbeing of sexual minorities. For SOGIE advocates, I provide tailored implementation strategies for pushing forward their agenda. For example, is calling for marriage equality sensible based on available evidence, or is putting this aside for now more effective in the longer term? For academics, I foster research collaborations beyond traditional ideas - that the LGBT community as study participants must be seen as whole persons and therefore must be better understood beyond research topics on sex, sexuality, or HIV/AIDS. My policy work in this area is wide-ranging and is based on high quality research - from basic SOGIE literacy to more complex rights-based issues.

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age of criminal responsibility and of consent

The way forward for managing 'undesirable' behaviors among young persons in this country is punitive. There is a belief that young people are capable of distinguishing between 'right' and 'wrong' and of knowing the consequences of their action. This is a narrow definition of 'maturity.' If this holds true for crime-related behaviors and others where consent or liability is expected, then it must hold true for other situations. However, this is it not the case, for we do not allow children and teenagers to consent for some things nor to be held responsible for other things. My policy work in this area is to clarify for decision makers the complex public health issues, including systems-level factors that lead to poor health outcomes. My work also points to the psychological and behavioral factors and to the role of solution-oriented, evidence-informed mental health in preventing and managing these behaviors.