Food, nutrition and health talents gained traction as 16 experts discussed the state of Science Technology and Innovation (STI) talent development and retention in Mindanao during the recently concluded Mindanao Regional Scientific Meeting held on April 5-6.
The Focus Group Discussion (FDG) aligned with the PAGTANAW 2050, a 30-year strategic plan of the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines (NAST PHL), having Food Security and Nutrition, and Health System among the 12 key operation areas of the STI foresight plan.
Dr. Mary Ann Daclan, Chairperson of Mindanao State University Research Ethics Committee, led the virtual FDG with Dr. Aimee Lynn Barrion-Dupo, Professor of University of the Philippines Los Baños assisting the session.
As the experts share their inputs, it was determined that Mindanao has a good representation of food, nutrition and health experts and professionals. However, some HEIs currently do not have degree programs in health sciences and only offer nutrition-related courses instead. As an example, MS and PhD graduate programs are inaccessible within the region causing nurses, nutritionists-dietitians to leave the region for better professional development opportunities. Ms. Lucia Santos, representative of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), underscored the need to consider opening MS and PhD graduate programs and scholarship opportunities to encourage more talent development and further strengthen the region’s capacity on specific STI areas.
“On the same notion of talent development and retention, opportunities for microbiologist are available through University of Southern Mindanao (USM) certification exam,” Ms. Aleyla De Cadiz, UP Mindanao, added. Accordingly, Philippine Society for Microbiologist (PSM) has a certification program and provides examination for registered microbiologist.
Meanwhile, thanks to the strengthened implementation of PRC on requiring chemical laboratories in the Philippines to employ licensed chemists for continued operations, Mindanao chemists have increased employment opportunities. However, private laboratories are pressured since the salary scheme of the government is more competitive. “Attracting new graduates to join us is posing a challenge since opportunities offered by the government for chemist is more attractive,” Ms. Ludivina Porticos of University of Immaculate Conception (UIC) stated.
A representative from the Department of Health (DOH) cited that pharmacists and nurses were hired as an emergency response to the threat of CoVid-19 pandemic. To add, nurses were recruited as CoViD-19 Vaccination responders.
In terms of livelihood, “Mindanao as an agricultural region has an abundance of arable lands that can be transformed into rich and cultivated land,” Ms. Ashley Ali Bangcola of Mindanao State University (MSU) added. But as to how to maximize the agricultural productivity potentials of the region without deterring the natural environment depends on the existing government policies and program priorities.
Experts also recommended to prioritize inclusive food system to address food security and adequacy issues through improved livelihood focused on agricultural productivity.
DOH submitted a program proposal for a niche center on functional food for region 11 while region 10 prioritized the implementation of universal health care which starts in three pilot provinces Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and one HUC which is the Cagayan de Oro City.
BARMM outlined the need for science-based information and evidence in implementing initiatives in agriculture and nutrition to communities. Public-private partnership will enable market access and product promotion of the Halal Industry. Philippines could benefit from recent innovations that include test kits, E-nose and biosensors useful in the Halal industry and its implications in health and nutrition.
The FDG concluded on the note that Continued partnership and collaboration among lead institutions within the region is one strategy to push for the PAGTANAW 2050 agenda. Regional HEIs, SUCs play vital role on talent development and retention, and have to be involved in local research and development aspect on Food, Nutrition and Health.
The participating experts were from SUCs, HEIs and NGAs based in Mindanao - University of the Philippines Mindanao, Mindanao State University Maguindanao and Marawi, Western Mindanao State University, Zamboanga State College on Marine Science, Ateneo de Zamboanga University and Technology, Davao del Sur State College and Central Mindanao University, Department of Health and National Nutrition Council.