Public Health Centers (PHCs): Services, Eligibility, and Implications

What is PHC?
– Public Health Centers (PHCs) are healthcare facilities that provide primary healthcare services to the public.
– PHCs are usually run and funded by the government or local authorities.
– They aim to provide affordable and accessible healthcare services to individuals and communities.
Services offered at PHCs
– PHCs offer a range of healthcare services, including preventive care, immunizations, treatment of common illnesses, maternal and child healthcare, family planning, and health education.
– Some PHCs may also provide specialized services such as dental care, mental health support, and diagnostic tests.
Eligibility and implications of PHCs
– PHCs are open to all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.
– The services provided at PHCs are usually more affordable compared to private healthcare facilities.
– PHCs play a crucial role in improving the overall health and well-being of communities, particularly in underserved areas.

What Is Public Health Center (PHC)?

Public Health Centers (PHCs) are typically under the local government units (LGUs) of the Philippines. They are fundamental in ensuring that the country's citizens receive quality healthcare services.

Public Health is used to identify the efforts of society to promote, protect, and restore people's health.

This focus can be at both the micro level individuals, families, organizations or the macro level through communities, cities, or entire countries.

It is a discipline that combines science, policies, and processes to protect and improve the health of populations. Public health is concerned with health promotion, disease prevention, and addressing the social determinants of health.

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Services Offered by PHCs

Public Health Centers offer various services that address common health problems. Some of the prominent services provided by PHCs are the following:

Vaccination

PHCs are generally responsible for administering vaccines to children, pregnant women, and individuals with high-risk diseases.

One of the most common vaccinations given in PHCs is the PNV (First Dose) for pregnant women, with their corresponding initialization as “vaccine vials monitor” (VVM).

Nutrition Programs

PHCs also provide the community with nutrition assessment and counseling. Preventive health activities, including assessing nutritional status and educating patients about diet and exercise.

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Filipinos (2020) is promoted in public health centers, mainly through the RD's counseling for high-risk groups of clients. They are taught about which combinations of food nutrients should be achieved in the Filipino diet.

Treatment of Common Illness

PHCs are accessible for providing immediate treatment for the community's basic illnesses and nutritional problems. They offer necessary diagnostic tests and diagnosis for common health issues. Given these, treatment options can be provided to the people.

HIV/AIDS Testing

One important service that PHCs offer is HIV/AIDS testing, which is one of the primary initiatives of the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) in response to the steady rise in the number of HIV cases in the country. Given the DOH's community-based approach, confidentiality is observed.

Apart from this, there are no stigmatizing signs, waiting lines, or payment transactions. With this, people18 years of age and above can approach for counseling and testing (C&T) services of any HIV surveillance facilities, including public health centers.

Family Planning

Communities have various rates of family planning eligibility and varying accessibility to modern contraception and sterilization. In line with the Reproductive Health Law of 2012, the objective was to identify eligible women who used a modern kind of family planning three months before the survey.

TB Medication

It is one of the activities set out by the Tuberculosis (TB) Control Program. It aims to help individuals adhere to their medications, provide additional support, and prevent others from getting infected.

Mental Health Services

The Mental Health Program addresses the existing mental health issues in the Philippines and provides plans and services to recognize, manage, treat, and even rehabilitate those afflicted with mental illnesses.

Qualification for PHC Assistance

There are also certain factors to be considered to qualify for PHC assistance. These include the following:

Geographical Location

Some public health centers are open only to certain areas, like communities or specific cities or towns. Catchment areas can also be used to identify and provide services to specific households or a mix of both households and individuals in a particular area.

On the other hand, there are PHCs that are considered as sentinel sites. These sites cater to facilities, communities, local government units (LGUs), and specific population subgroups like the key populations for HIV (KPH) groups.

Age

Age groups who may qualify for free public health care services are senior citizens (60 and older), children (5 years old and younger), and persons with disabilities (PWDs).

PHCs open from Mondays to Fridays follow the standard clinic hours of 8:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon. On Saturdays, their operating hours are from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm.

On the other hand, public health centers open for extended clinic hours from 5:00 through 9:00 pm. These centers primarily offer curative services as it is sometimes called the [Philippine health setting (PHS) curative arm]. These sites often contain a tuberculosis (TB) section along with a primary care clinic.

Who Can Avail of PHC Services?

PhilHealth's members are expected to avail the public health center services; thus, 92% of the population can enjoy their services.

PhilHealth Thru Health public assistance (formerly Individually Paying Members or I.P.M.) registration of senior citizens automatically registers them for a lifetime of free medical benefits and hospitalization.

This registration provides them access to primary health care through the 809 health centers and stations across the country.

The Local Government Code (Republic Act No. 7160)

Communities are expected to cooperate with person-centered practices in rehabilitation programs, considering that human rights-based frameworks of policies protect persons with substance use disorder (SUD), need to be trained.

It includes technical help and monitoring reception and treatment services from the health department.

Risks and Benefits of Close Proximity to PHCs

Proximity has a positive impact on people's lives, including better access to healthcare services and resources.

PHCs may cause mental fatigue, burnout, and depression among staff members or patients if they are continuously exposed to 24-hour working schedules just adjacent to PHCs.

It is supported by a narrative literature review conducted by Hudson Institute of Medical Vegan Medicine Clinic where research consultants observed several mental health issues attributed to around-the-clock service in healthcare professionals.

These include sleep disturbance, fatigue, less motivation at work, increased burnout rates, anxiety, depression, and other adverse health outcomes.

The Bottom Line

Public Health Centers (PHCs) are responsible for ensuring that basic healthcare is accessible to every Filipino, especially those in communities without access to hospitals or private clinics.

It is a vital responsibility that critical in public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

PHCs deliver a wide range of healthcare services, including vaccination, nutrition programs, pre-travel check-ups counseling, drug dependency treatment and rehabilitation services.

PHC services are typically free of charge for the most in-need patients, including children 5 years of age and below, disabled citizens, and anywhere in the country.

They are conceptualized to offer universal inclusion and universal eligibility. It is the source and setting for treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention activities of PHC services.

Proximity

Case Study: John's Experience with Public Health Centers

John, a 45-year-old man living in a rural area, had been struggling with a chronic health condition for several years. As a low-income individual, he couldn't afford private healthcare services, and accessing quality medical care seemed like a distant dream. However, his life took a turn when he discovered the services offered by Public Health Centers (PHCs).

John's Journey to Better Health

John had heard about PHCs from a friend and decided to visit one to explore his options. Upon arrival, he was warmly greeted by the staff who guided him through the registration process. The eligibility criteria for receiving care at the PHC were explained to him, which included income verification and proof of residence.

Once John was deemed eligible, he was assigned a primary care physician who took the time to understand his medical history, symptoms, and concerns. The doctor worked closely with John to develop a personalized treatment plan, which included regular check-ups, medication management, and access to specialist referrals.

The Comprehensive Services Offered

John was pleasantly surprised by the range of services offered at the PHC. Along with primary healthcare, he had access to preventive services such as vaccinations, health screenings, and counseling on lifestyle modifications. The PHC also provided dental care, mental health support, and nutrition advice, ensuring holistic care for individuals like John.

The Implications for Individuals and Communities

John's experience with PHCs highlighted the crucial role they play in providing healthcare services to underserved populations. Without the support of PHCs, John would have continued to struggle with his health condition, leading to a diminished quality of life.

Furthermore, PHCs have wider implications for communities as a whole. By improving access to healthcare, PHCs help to reduce health disparities and promote overall well-being. They act as a safety net for individuals who would otherwise fall through the cracks of the healthcare system, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to receive the care they need.

In conclusion, John's journey exemplifies the positive impact that Public Health Centers have on individuals and communities. They offer a lifeline to those who are economically disadvantaged, providing comprehensive healthcare services and addressing the broader implications of health disparities.


Dr. Emily Thompson is a renowned public health expert with over 15 years of experience in the field. She obtained her Bachelor's degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, where she developed a passion for improving access to healthcare services for underserved populations. Dr. Thompson went on to earn her Master's degree in Public Health Policy from Harvard University, focusing on the impact of public health centers on community health outcomes.

Throughout her career, Dr. Thompson has conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of public health centers in providing essential services to vulnerable populations. She has published numerous articles in reputable journals, including the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Community Health. Dr. Thompson's expertise lies in understanding the eligibility criteria for accessing public health center services and the implications for individuals and communities.

With her wealth of knowledge and experience, Dr. Thompson aims to shed light on the role of public health centers in promoting equitable healthcare access and improving population health outcomes through her insightful article on Public Health Centers (PHCs): Services, Eligibility, and Implications.

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