PUERTO PRINCESA, Republic of the Philippines -- Exercise Balikatan 2012, in its 28th iteration, is focusing on capacity building during its humanitarian civic assistance projects within local communities, as it did for more than 60 rural health care workers in the village of Maningisda April 12, 2012.

Exercise Balikatan, a combined Philippine and U.S. military training exercise designed to enhance interoperability between the two nation partners, traditionally has had a medical and veterinary outreach component that brings free services to villages near the location of the exercise. BK12, like past Exercises Balikatan, also has these clinics, but this year, the clinics come with a two-day training session for the rural health care workers. These workers are those that work directly with the people of the villages and often is their first level of care for health and medical issues, said U.S. Navy Capt. David A. Lane, force surgeon, U.S. Marine Corps Pacific.

"The first day will be teaching and training with the paraprofessionals, the rural health workers, the rural health volunteers and the school teachers, who are integral to monitoring the child health aspect of the overall population," said Lane.

The first day of training provides the attendees with topics pertinent for the type of care relevant for small community health and medical issues. Training covered topics such as treating minor injuries and lacerations, dental care, eye health and breastfeeding. Topics where are relevant for the jungle environment of Palawan were also covered. They included preventative care, environmental health and identifying and treating diarrhea.

"This training is very important to learn about the responsibilities to help the community," said barangay counselor and local leader from Barangay Mangingisda, Lourdes Bronala.

The training was provided by both Philippine and U.S. military and civilian health care professionals personnel and will be offered in five locations across the Puerto Princesa area during April. The Philippine personnel involved included personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Puerto Princesa City Health Office and the Phil-health Palawan Service Office. The U.S. personnel training the rural health care workers were from several services, including the Navy and the Army, supported by the Combined Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force. Each session will train more than 50 workers and volunteers, in an effort to grow medical capacity within the local villages.

Partnering with the Philippine and U.S. personnel, was also the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID provided first aid kits to the attendees of the training so they would have tools to apply their knowledge after the training was over. This is to help prepare capacity in the villages to respond to emergencies and possible disasters, said Helen J. Hipolito, project development specialist, Office of Health, USAID.

"What would you do with the knowledge, if you do not have anything to use?" asked Hipolito. "That [first aid kits] will actually be used by the rural health volunteers, so after they receive the training, they can now have the kits, so if anything happens they have something to use."

BK12 officially started on April 16, 2012, although the humanitarian civic assistance portion of the exercise started on March 12 with engineering projects scheduled to complete two-room classrooms at five schools near Puerto Princesa by the end of Balikatan. These construction projects are now more than 80 percent complete. Medical and veterinary outreach clinics will also be offered during the month to a variety of locations throughout the island of Palawan.

"I hope for these workers [rural health care workers] to help the community and those helping the community," said Bronala through an interpreter. "They will be the middle person for both the service provider and the recipients."

Page last updated Tue April 24th, 2012 at 00:47