Into The Light Project: Results From Philippine Health Information System on Mental Health Condition


Stakeholders of the Into The Light Project hosted a round table discussion last June 5, 2015 at the Muralla Ballroom of the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila. Representatives from different sectors were invited to participate in the said event.

Into The Light is a milestone partnership project that focuses on the creation and development of the country's first-ever information system on mental health. The system aims to generate consistent and reliable information to assess, address and improve the health situation of Filipinos suffering from mental illnesses.

Mr. Wigbert Fontanilla
Country Director - Hospital Channel of Johnson & Johnson Philippines

The Philippine Health Information System on Mental Health Conditions (PHIC-MH) was launched last July 2014. The multi-sector group partners and collaborators include the Department of Health, Institute of Clinical Epidemiology and proponents of Schizophrenia Study Group, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila, members of the Technical Working Group and the Philippine Psychiatric Association. 

In the opening remarks of Mr. Wigbert Fontanilla, Country Director of Johnson & Johnson Philippines, he mentioned that because of the lack of information system on mental health in the Philippines we don't know how big the problem is. Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson through a grant funded the Into The Light project. The system was setup in 14 public and private health institutions across the country. Mr. Fontanilla also emphasized the need to sustain the project.

Dr. Beverly Azucena
OIC Medical Director National Center for Mental Health

Current Mental Health

Dr. Beverly Azucena, OIC Medical Director of National Center for Mental Health presented the National Framework for Action on Mental Health and the Stages of Development in Mental Health. 

Stages of Development in Mental Health:

Hospital Model --> Rehabilitation Model --> Integrative Model --> Recovery Model

Under the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan, the vision is mainstreaming mental health in daily life. The Philippines has not yet reached the Recovery Model wherein the patients are included back into the community to lead a productive life. There's an effort to integrate the mental health services in the community but most health practitioners cannot practice in the provinces because of lack of plantilla.

Dr. Ernie Vera,
Division Chief, Non-Communicable Diseases Department of Health

Dr. Ernie Vera talked about the DOH's current programs on mental health. He said that the role of the Department of Health is policy development and the implementation lies on the hands of the local government. He also stressed the importance of the information system.

Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco - dela Paz,
Vice Chancellor for Research, Executive Director
National Institutes of Health, UP Manila

Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco - dela Paz discussed the role of National Institutes of Health (NIH) in health system strengthening through health information systems. According to her, there is still no mental health legislation in the Philippines. Also, only 5% of the total budget of DOH is spent on mental health. In terms of human resource, there are only 3.5 working on mental health for every 100,000 population.

Prof. Maria Lourdes Amarillo,
Project Leader, PHIS-MH Project
Institute of Clinical Epidemiology, National Institutes of Health

The Philippine Health Information System on Mental Health or the Into The Light Project started in December 2013 and was launched in July 2014. A total of 113 participants were trained on the use of the software and data collection. Prof. Amarillo stressed that confidentiality of the patient's identity will be protected. The data of each patient will be bar-coded offline and when uploaded to the online system. The information entered into the system can generate reports that will help provide better standardized data. 

"The need to sustain this system is imperative so as to further provide meaningful data for evidence-based policies and programs in the future," Prof. Amarillo of the ICE-NIH-UPM explained.

Dr. Tomas Bautista
Psychiatrist, UP-Philippine General Hospital

The Results of the Pilot Implementation of PHIS-MH

Data coming from 2,500 out of 11,000 information sheets distributed among the 14 institutions involved for the one year period May 8, 2014 to May 6, 2015 revealed the following findings:

  • 42% of patients were living with schizophrenia, 15% suffer from bipolar disorder and 6% are into substance abuse. Other disorders listed are major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, schizoaffective disorder, acute and transient disorder and stimulant related disorder.
  • 60% of the recorded patients were between the ages of 20 to 44.
  • 57% were males while 43% were females.
  • 22% are covered by PhilHealth either as members (13%) or dependents (9%). 29% do not have PhilHealth coverage while 49% did not indicate their PhilHealth status.
  • more than 25% of the patients were recorded to be between "mildly" or "markedly" ill.
"This new data validates the general information we have on mental illnesses but what it reveals now is that many patients are in their productive years. Appropriate medical interventions are much needed to help ensure these patients regain productivity," said psychiatrist Dr. Tomas Bautista of UP-PGH, one of the leads in the project.

The following reactors from different sector shared their thoughts on the mental health status in the country:

  • Philippine Psychiatric Association
  • Ms. Laureen Cunanan, Southern Philippine Medical Center (SPMC-IPBM), Davao City
  • Ms. Perlita Opena speaking in behalf of Dr. Montoya, DOST - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development
  • Mr. Jacinto Blas Mantaring, Chair, UP Manila, UP Review and Ethics Board
  • Dr. Maria Minerva Calimag, President - Philippine Medical Association
  • PhilHealth
  • WHO
  • Mr. Raymond Marquez, Hospicio de San Juan de Dios
  • Ms. Sally Bongalonta, Alliance of Filipino Families for Mental Health
  • Rolando, Manic-Depressive Patient
  • Jaime, Patient
Ms. Sally Bongalonta of the Alliance of Filipino Families for Mental Health Inc., said "we need to integrate mental health care in the Philippines. Right now, medical assistance is given only through the Medicine Assistance Program (MAP) of the DOH. Indigent patients who have been referred to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) and Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA) have also received help. Some religious and private organizations are also giving assistance but we need a more sustainable and consistent approach involving appropriate medical care. For example, psychosocial rehabilitation services are needed in addition to medical assistance to reintegrate patients back to their families and society. This is needed to fight the stigma attached to individuals affected with mental conditions."

Rolando, a patient who was able to reintegrate into the community shared his 6 Keys to Recovery:
  1. Spirituality
  2. Education
  3. Medicines / Doctors / Other Health Professionals
  4. Family Support / Family Support Group
  5. Cultivation of Talent(s)
  6. Willpower and Responsibility

USec. Vicente Belizario Jr.
Technical Services, Department of Health

USec. Vicente Belizario Jr. has expressed support in the legislation of mental health in the country and believe in the need for additional budget allocation. He said that the data being gathered by the PHIS-MH is very important to provide the information for creating programs by the DOH.

"Mental Health is one of the major programs of the Department of Health. In fact, we have been pushing for the passage of the Mental Health Act and this is one of the issues to be tackled by the Philippines in the APEC Ministerial Meeting in November," USec. Belizario said.


USec. Vicente Belizario Jr of the Department of Health and Mr. Wigbert Fontanilla, Country Director of Johnson & Johnson were the first to sign the Into The Light Project Commitment Wall.