UP’s pandemic response initiatives
The University of the Philippines’ vital contributions to the country’s overall COVID-19 pandemic response since 2020 is shaping the “new normal.” Its partnerships with local government units, national government agencies, and global institutions to address the challenges during the pandemic are most notable in the swift and efficient mobilization of system-wide and constituent university-wide pandemic response teams and initiatives.
The UP Manila (UPM), the University’s Health Sciences Center and home of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is showing the way forward with its health personnel, scientists and leaders serving as frontliners, educators, and policymakers.
Designated in March 2020 by the Department of Health (DOH) as one of the government’s three COVID-19 referral centers in the National Capital Region, UP-PGH also launched its 24/7 teleconsultation and referral service called “Bayanihan Na! COVID-19 Operations Center.” With the help of the private sector, UP-PGH converted six sections of the hospital into COVID-19 wards and hotels nearby provided food and comfortable accommodation for the overburdened health frontliners.
Since March 2020, the NIH, with the DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), has been training frontliners in laboratories across the nation on biosafety and molecular biology techniques in RT-PCR testing.
Collaborative efforts by the various UP constituent universities to produce additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and alcohol-based sanitizers for the COVID-19 frontliners were also notable, such as those done by colleges in UP Diliman, UP Visayas, UP Tacloban, UP Cebu, and UP Baguio.
Philippine Genome Center (PGC) initiatives for training, research and testing
The Philippine Genome Center (PGC), a genomics-focused multidisciplinary research unit of the University of the Philippines (System) and based in UP Diliman, together with the UPM-NIH and Manila HealthTek, Inc., and funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), produced the country’s own COVID-19 testing kit. The PGC’s DNA Sequencing Laboratory made it possible for UP experts to use the genome sequence of COVID-19 in developing the kit which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The PGC clinical laboratory processed up to 600 to 800 samples and run on a 24-hour operation for COVID-19 biosurveillance and research, elective swabbing services, and community mass screening. The PGC has been at the forefront of the country’s efforts in genomics research and testing since its creation in 2009.
The UP vaccination centers or “Bakunahan” in UP Diliman (UPD) and UP Los Banos (UPLB) were high-impact initiatives that mobilized regular and volunteer staff, health professionals, and community members to inoculate thousands of Filipinos against COVID-19.In partnership with the Quezon City local government, the UPD hub administered a total of 37,072 COVID-19 vaccine doses, including the booster shots, from its opening in April 2021 until December 2021. Meanwhile at UPLB, which received a commendation from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for its COVID-19 vaccination program, a total of 47,945 vaccine doses were administered to the residents of Los Baños and nearby communities. Before the end of 2021, Los Baños was able to inoculate 100 percent of its target population.
Fit for the future
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for health care professionals and leaders to develop the tools to face the challenges of a health scenario like the one the scarred the global community the past couple of years.
UPM’s College of Nursing, in partnership with the Peking Union Medical College-School of Nursing, has offered an online course through a series of webinars to develop global nursing leaders in the WHO Western Pacific Region. A six-week online course on “fit for the future” trains global nursing leaders to face the challenges and changing health landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and achieve Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.
WHO Solidarity Trials
When the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Solidarity Trial Vaccine, the UP-PGH was one of the 600 hospitals in 52 countries which participated in the large-scale global undertaking. Aimed at generating data on the efficacy and safety of candidate vaccines against emerging variants and determine the effective COVID-19 vaccines and doses suitable for the Filipino population, the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST), DOH and the UPM officially launched the WHO Solidarity Trial Vaccine (STV) in December 2021.
Expanding the PGH to serve more Filipinos
With its ever expanding role in the country’s heath care system, the UP-PGH will soon be expanding at its present site in Manila and in the Diliman campus in Quezon City. In March 2022, proposals for UP’s two major Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, the UP-PGH Cancer Center and the UP-PGH Diliman, were endorsed to the highest decision-making body in the Executive Branch. This is a step closer to providing ordinary Filipinos greater access to world-class and affordable tertiary hospital care and comprehensive cancer care.
The proposed UP-PGH Cancer Center will be a 200 to 300-bed dedicated cancer center within the University’s Manila campus in Ermita. With at least half of all beds exclusively serving underprivileged Filipinos, the center will offer advanced, integrated, and affordable oncology care services to those who cannot otherwise access the kind of treatments available in private hospitals. The proposed UP PGH Diliman, to be built on a 4.2-hectare area in the UP Diliman campus in Quezon City, will be a 700-bed public tertiary hospital accessible to the poor. It aims to complement and enhance the network of health facilities and specialized hospitals in the Quezon City area.
Projects such as these are vital for addressing the people’s health needs and potential diseases that may appear in a future pandemic, disaster, or crisis. These also serve as a partnership model for state universities and colleges (SUCs) and other government agencies to conceptualize and implement their health infrastructure and services, all to ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being of all Filipinos from all walks of life.
UPLB UHS is an HIV testing center
The UP Los Baños (UPLB) University Health Service (UHS) has been providing sexual and reproductive healthcare for the public as a Department of Health-accredited HIV testing clinic since 2019. With the UPLB located in the region with the second highest number of recorded HIV cases in the country according to the country’s HIV/AIDS registry, this clinic is UPLB’s response to provide timely healthcare services. The clinic offers free and confidential HIV tests and counseling for UPLB constituents and neighboring communities. Free male condoms and lubricants are also available. In addition to counseling, the clinic refers HIV-positive individuals to the San Lazaro Hospital, the specialty tertiary hospital of DOH for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
UP programs for mental and psychosocial well-being
The existing programs that supported the cognitive and psychosocial well-being of UP constituents on every campus have been fine-tuned, and new ones created, to address the challenges that emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainties since 2020 and sudden changes required to adapt to the “new normal” heightened the mental and emotional fatigue experienced by the University’s students, faculty, and staff. Here are some of the notable efforts done by concerned offices in the UP System, UP Open University (UPOU), and UPD.
Faculty from UPOU shared tips on maintaining psychosocial health. They posted contact information for its students who wish to reach the helpdesk of the Office of Student Affairs or seek help from professionals and counselors. Free and confidential psychosocial support and psychological first aid
The system-wide UP Ugnayan ng Pahinungòd launched the Committee on Psychosocial Emergency Services, or UP CoPES, to provide members of the University and its partner communities with adequate psychosocial health and services during periods of crisis. The “strengths-based” and “resilience-based” approach of the program and its counterparts aim to equip students, faculty, staff members, and alumni of UP with the knowledge and skills to offer psychosocial support to themselves, their families, their peers, and communities. UP CoPES enables the CUs to combine their strengths to provide solutions to emergencies and share best practices in training and public service. The Pahinungòd’s programs also complement existing efforts by UPD’s University Health Service and UPD PsycServ.
UP’s Sandigan, Sandalan: Training and Advocacy Programs for Mental Health is among the newest services that offer: the Directory of Mental Health Service Providers; the Training on Mental Health Promotion in the Teaching-Learning Environment; the Training Program for Peer Mental Health Advocates; and, the Student Mental Health Advocacy Program. More than 200 faculty members and staff of student affairs offices across the UP System have completed this program.
Webinars were also conducted by the UPD Office of Counseling and Guidance (OCG) in partnership with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA) and the Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA). Their Celebrate Life 2021 was a six-part webinar series aimed to develop, promote, and optimize the personal strengths of students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders to face the challenges of the times. Students and employees from UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los Baños, UP Visayas, and UP Open University, guidance counselors, psychologists, psychometricians, and academicians participated in the webinars.
A Smoke-free University
The University enforces a “no smoking policy,” a Smoking Ban, in all its campuses and buildings across the archipelago. All Chancellors have been tasked to implement and maintain this policy.
The “no smoking policy” is in accordance with Executive Order No. 26, s. 2017, entitled Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places, the Clean Air Act of 1999, and the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.
More on UP and the SDGs
UP and the Sustainable Development Goals
Message from the President
Green UP: A UP System Action Plan for Environmental Sustainability
UP at a Glance
UP on Quality Education
UP on Gender Equality
UP on Sustainable Cities and Communities
UP on Climate Action
UP on Partnerships to Achieve the Goals