Meeting new board members: Karen Alparce-Villanueva
We welcome Karen Alparce-Villanueva, Vice-President of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO) and founder of Rare Cancers Philippines, to our Governing Board starting from August 2018. Karen answered a few questions about her work, what she brings to IAPO and why she is involved in patient advocacy work.
Why are you involved in the work that you do?
The Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO) serves as the umbrella organization of patient groups in the Philippines and our mission is to strengthen the voice of patients in policy-making. PAPO endeavors to build the capacity of different patient groups to articulate the needs and concerns of patients so that the healthcare system will focus on patient needs and welfare. Serendipitously, PAPO was born out of a grant from the company I was working for which gave an NGO the resources to map out and organize patient groups in the Philippines. In 2015, after spending 3 decades in the private sector, I felt I needed to contribute all that I had learned in the healthcare sector into meaningful work. Thus began my journey as a patient advocate and I am convinced that my time was just perfect as my country is in the process of implementing Universal Health Coverage. It is absolutely critical that the patient voice is heard in this important transformation.
What are some of the challenges facing the people within your area of work?
I believe patient advocates face many challenges in terms of their capacity to properly organize and manage their organization. It is a challenge to raise resources, manage volunteers and ensure the sustainability of the patient organization. Patient advocates also need to be adept at a variety of skills such as effective communications, policy analysis and leadership. Because we work with a variety of stakeholders, we need to be able to collaborate in a manner that will bring about change and at the same time have the patience and fortitude to see these through.
Why did you join IAPO?
I joined IAPO because I believe in its mission of working with communities of patients to get our voices heard by all involved in healthcare. Because of its stature as a non-government organization, IAPO is able to provide input on important health policy-making bodies. We also look up to IAPO for the variety of tools and resources that it provides which are relevant and helpful in addressing the critical concerns of patients everywhere. I believe that IAPO’s focus on patient-centered healthcare is relevant because the healthcare system needs to be designed and delivered so that it can answer the needs of patients.
What are your expectations as you join the IAPO Board?
As an incoming IAPO board member, I expect to become more knowledgeable about the patient movement on a global level. As a representative from the Asia-Pacific region, I hope to be able to articulate our successes as well as challenges so that the patient voice is strengthened even more on our side of the world. A lot of the countries in my region are in various stages in their journey towards Universal Health Coverage, and we need patient groups to actively participate in shaping the health policies so these are made in the best interest of patients. I look forward to being able to help advance patient engagement and empowerment by bringing together the best practices and showcasing them at an Asia-Pacific Patient Congress.
See Karen's biography here.