With the aim of strengthening the fort against CoVid 19 down at the Barangay level, 7-Eleven Philippines joins the BIDA Solusyon Campaign of the Department of Health (DOH) by employing the same philosophy that they used in the company to promote positive changes at the grassroot level.

After its store personnel surveyed 38,000 individuals in 7,000 inner neighborhoods last August, 7-Eleven found out that only 60% of people in the vicinity of their stores wore masks, prompting the company to install a COVID-19 update poster in each of its 2,951 stores nationwide once barangay level data was made publicly available in mid-September.

Updated daily with data from the DOH, this poster shows the number of active cases and the trend in the barangay where the store is located. It also showed similar information about the two other adjacent barangays.

PSC President and CEO Victor Paterno said,

“Our management philosophy is ‘show the right data in the right form to the right people at the right time, and they will make the right decisions.’ You can’t look over the shoulder of every store manager when you have 3,000 stores – you have to give him the freedom to manage his store, but at the same time let him know how he is doing, so he can either be left alone, recognized, or held accountable. We think the same is true with regard to managing COVID-19.”

The activity is aimed at encouraging people in the community to wear their masks by:

  • Transparent reporting of timely data – community knows how many new and active cases on a daily basis.
  • Community spirit would bring social pressure to frown on non-mask wearing – influence correct behavior to reduce the spread.
  • Possible incentivisation program

The campaign seems to have had mixed reception and to assess initial efforts, DOH and Philippine Seven Corporation (PSC) invited experts from different fields via a special online forum via Zoom earlier.

Paterno is joined by DOH USec Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, USAID’s Michelle Lang-Alli, ADB Health Director Dr. Patrick Osewe, Fr. Nicanor Austriatico, Amor Maclang, Dr. Tony Dans, Dr. Aileen Espina, Dr. Benjie Co, and Atty. Sikini Labastilla.

Maclang said that BIDA Solusyon is more than a campaign already, and should already be described as a movement with the barangay information drive reflecting the private sector’s contribution towards the DOH’s transition from a top-down approach towards managing COVID-19, to one that focuses on strengthening the pandemic response at the grassroots.

Labastilla, who is the head of Caloocan City’s contact tracing team said,

“In Caloocan, every community now aspires to be COVID-free, just as they once aspired to be drug free. There will be cases, but the community needs to see it as an ongoing battle rather than one that is won when they hit zero.”

To support the government as it pushes for wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping distance as key ways to prevent the spread of the virus, 7-Eleven is elevating awareness about COVID further by informing its customers about the number of active COVID-19 cases at their local barangay level.

While some communities wanted the CoViD 19 Update Posters taken down from 7-Eleven stores out of fear of being stigmatized, Paterno believed that it’s a great opportunity to educate people on how to deal with the CoViD 19 Pandemic. Once unnecessary fears are removed, managing risks will be more effective and efficient.

Dr. Aileen Espina, Chief of Professional Medical Staff at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center echoed sentiments that a community level response is critical to effectively managing the pandemic.

“Tacloban barangays demanded barangay spread numbers early on, and disclosing them resulted in a reduction in cases.  Could this be because the community has been strengthened by one disaster, and is willing to work together to prevent another, just as countries like Taiwan and Korea that were affected by SARS have outperformed?” She said.

According to Fr. Nicanor Austriatico, a chief researcher for microbiology,

“Barangay level efforts over the past month have been promising.  QC’s Race to Zero campaign, which the UP OCTA group has been advising, has reduced spread and improved contact tracing efforts by 20%.”

Leading epidemiologist and convener of the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) Dr. Antonio Dans noted that showing the public a real-time picture of successfully curbing the spread would have a positive impact on promoting further practice of the personal protective measures.

“Some people work or live in a crowded or risky area, and distancing is not always a choice they can make. But wearing face masks and shields is something that communities have control over,” he said.

7-Eleven is also launching a Bidang Barangay Contest in more than 50 major cities and municipalities nationwide. Having provided information about local barangay’s active cases, 7-Eleven is encouraging both the barangay’s local Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERT) officials and residents to be proactive partners in sharing information about COVID-19 their locality.

“These are early days in this approach, and we need to compare notes on what works and what doesn’t as we progress in our individual efforts.  Furthermore, we hope that the national government, and those here who influence them, can help incentivize reduction of community spread by empowering LGUs to lift restrictions to allow more economic activity,”  Paterno said.

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