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Rocky Camaligan, wearing a mask and a "Nurse Leader" t-shirt

This Filipino public health nurse is shifting his community’s attitudes towards health

Rocky Camaligan has designed and integrated a health education program that promotes physical and mental health among patients, health workers and the wider community.

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Rocky Camaligan was destined for a career in health education. In high school, as an HIV/AIDS educator, he created a school-wide information drive around how young people can control and prevent the spread of HIV. After training as a nurse (and a short stint as a high school teacher), in 2017 Camaligan saw an opening for a role as a health education and promotion officer at Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Medical Center (GCGMMC) in Tagbilaran City. Realizing that the position would allow him to combine his dual passions for education and healthcare, he applied and was hired.

Now 35 years old, Camaligan is driven by an ambitious goal: to shift attitudes towards health across Bohol province. “Here in the Philippines, people tend to only seek healthcare when they are extremely unwell,” he explains. “This means they end up with larger healthcare expenses, which the average Filipino cannot afford. We need to tackle misinformation and increase health literacy so we can change perspectives around health, shifting from a focus on disease to a health promoting approach.” Camaligan knew he needed to enhance and expand his knowledge in order to make a tangible positive impact and achieve his vision for both GCGMMC and Bohol. When he heard about the NurseLEAD program, he seized the opportunity and applied.

Strengthening primary health care to reach systemic health goals

NurseLEAD is a six-week online advanced public health leadership and management course for public health nurses, developed by the UP College of Nursing in partnership with the Johnson & Johnson Foundation. The course is designed to respond to the increased demand for public health nurses with advanced skills to effectively lead the implementation of healthcare services to achieve universal health coverage. Now in its third year, over 350 nurses from across the archipelago have graduated from NurseLEAD and have begun utilizing their leadership and advocacy training nationwide, causing a positive ripple effect. Camaligan was in the second batch of program participants and now works as a course facilitator.

His experience has fed directly into his work at GCGMMC, where he has implemented an interprofessional program designed to promote positive physical and mental health habits to three stakeholder groups: hospital personnel, hospital patients and the wider Bohol population. The program is based on a framework called ROCKS, which functions as an acronym describing five recommended behaviors:

R: Regularize Exercise and Physical Activity
O: Omit Health Risk Behaviors
C: Consume Healthy and Well-balanced Diet
K: Keep a Healthy Mind and Stress-Managed Life
S: Say Yes to Regular Health Examination, Health Literacy and Health Protection

A photo of a display from the Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Medical Center
Rocky Camaligan at a ROCKS community event.

Rocky Camaligan promoting the ROCKS approach at a community event.

Photo courtesy of Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Medical Center

Starting work at 7am, Camaligan spends his time meeting with staff across the institution to identify gaps in the program, as well as helping health coordinators to integrate the ROCKS framework into their daily work. With modules focused on collaboration and systems thinking, NurseLEAD’s training has allowed him to balance different perspectives and maintain a supportive environment while driving towards a shared vision.

“I will always be grateful to the NurseLEAD program for the skills I’ve learned and how they’ve enabled me to create the ROCKS health framework,” says Camaligan. “Because of the course, it is clear to me that health is a complex interplay of social, economic and environmental factors and that we need unified action to achieve universal health coverage. It requires a revolutionary and expansive approach.”

As the ROCKS project moves into its second phase, Camaligan will be focused on getting more partners on board with a view to evaluate its impact by 2025.

Sheila R. Bonito, Dean at the UP College of Nursing, echoes Camaligan’s words: “NurseLEAD is an opportunity for us to advance public health nursing and lead the implementation of the universal healthcare program in the Philippines. If we support emerging nurse leaders and give them the courage to bring forward their ideas and innovations, and also bring them forward from across different fields, we become more innovative and effective, bringing forth new solutions to old problems.”

The Johnson & Johnson Foundation is a registered charitable organization that reflects the commitment of Johnson & Johnson to create a world without health inequities by closing the gaps between communities and the care they need. Funded solely by Johnson & Johnson, the Foundation operates worldwide as Johnson & Johnson Foundation US (founded 1953) and Johnson & Johnson Foundation Scotland (founded 2007). These independent entities support both global and in-country partnerships and community-led initiatives to champion health workers, especially nurses and community health workers, and advance access to quality healthcare.

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