DOH through the Years

Before 1898

During the pre-Spanish period, traditional ways of healing (i.e., herbs and rituals) were widely used. Public health services in the Philippines began in 1577 when a Franciscan friar, Fr. Juan Clemente, established a dispensary for Manila indigents. In 1659, the dispensary became the San Juan de Dios Hospital.

The Spaniards instituted a hospital system with 13 hospitals and intensified public health work with the creation of the Central Board of Vaccination and a Board of Health and Charity. Before the Americans came to the Philippines, there were already Medicos Titulares, which corresponds to today’s provincial health workers.



On June 23, 1898, the Department of Public Works, Education and Hygiene (currently known as Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Education, and Department of Health, respectively) was formally proclaimed by President Emilio Aguinaldo.

Aguinaldo’s proclamation was not continued for they lost to the Americans. Through General Order No. 15, the Americans created a Board of Health for the City of Manila on September 29, 1898. Dr. T.H. Pardo de Tavera and Dr. Aristone Bautista Lim, together with three American surgeons, comprised the provisional board. Being that General Order No. 15 is American in nature, it aimed to protect the health of the American troops. Nevertheless, this American order started the institutional development of the current Department of Health (DOH).



On August 26, 1899, the Board of Health was abolished while Dr. Guy Edie was appointed as the first Commissioner of Health. Registration of births, deaths, and marriages began during this time.



The Philippine Commission created the Board of Health for the Philippine Islands, which served as the local health board, through Act No. 157 dated July 1, 1901. It became the Insular Board of Health when the provincial health boards and municipal health boards were created on December 2, 1901 through Act No. 307 and Act No. 308, respectively.



With Act No. 1407, the Insular Board of Health and its functions were abolished and replaced by the Bureau of Health, being under the Department of Interior. Dr. Victor Heiser was the first Director of the Bureau of Health.



Repealing Act No. 307, Philippine Commission Act No. 1487 ordered that the provincial boards of health be replaced with district health officers.



Act No. 2156 of 1912, also referred to as “Fajardo Act”, consolidated municipalities into sanitary divisions and instigated today’s “Health Fund”.



In 1915, the Bureau of Health was renamed into Philippine Health Service, and later reverted back to its previous name. Dr. Vicente de Jesuswas the first Filipino Director of Health.



The Reorganization Act of 1932or Act No. 4007 created the Office of the Commissioner of Health and Public Welfare with Dr. Basilio J. Valdez as its first Commissioner.



On January 7, 1941, the Executive Order No. 317 formalized the Department of Public Health and Welfare with Dr. Jose Fabella as its first Department Secretary. The Department included the following: Bureau of Quarantine; health department of chartered cities; provincial, city, and municipal hospitals; dispensaries and clinics; public markets and slaughter houses; health resorts; and all charitable agencies.



In October 1947, Executive Order No. 94 regulated reorganization in the Department of Public Health and Welfare. The Bureau of Public Welfare and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) were transferred under the Office of the President of the Philippines. From then on, the Department was called Department of Health (DOH). Under DOH were Office of the Secretary, Bureau of Health, Bureau of Quarantine, Bureau of Hospitals, and all City Health Departments.



Just three years after, the second reorganization of the Department was implemented through Executive Order No. 392. The Institute of Nutrition, Division of Biological Research, and Division of Food Technology were transferred from the Institute of Science to DOH. The Medical and Dental Services unit under the Bureau of Public Schools was transferred as the Division of School Medical and Dental Services under the Bureau of Health. There were also changes within the Department, namely: integration of the National Chest Center and TB section into a Tuberculosis Division; conversion of the Division of Laboratories into an Office of Public Health Research Laboratory; and conversion of the leprosy control section into a Division of Sanitaria under the Bureau of Hospitals.



After a threat from the US Operations Mission to the Philippines, the “most sweeping” reorganization was implemented. Two Undersecretaries of Health – the Undersecretary of Health and the Medical Services, and the Undersecretary of Special Services – were created. Eight regional health offices were formed as the health services were decentralized to the regional, provincial, and municipal levels.



Republic Act No. 6111, or the so-called Philippine Medical Care Act of 1969,authorized hospitalization, surgical, and medical expense benefits for the people.



In 1970, health services were classified into primary, secondary, and tertiary levels through the Restructured Health Care Delivery System.



At the onset of Martial Law, DOH was renamed to Ministry of Health and the regional offices increased from eight to twelve. The first Minister of Health was Dr. Clemente Gatmaitan.



Under the Executive Order No. 851, the Integrated Provincial Health Office was created to reorganize the Ministry of Health. The Health Education and Manpower Development Service was also created.



The Ministry of Health regained its former name (Department of Health) with the Executive Order No. 119. Also, five (5) offices, headed by an undersecretary and an assistant secretary, were placed under the Secretary of Health. These offices are the Chief of Staff, Public Health Services, Hospital and Facilities Services, Standard and Regulations, and Management Service. Three regions (i.e., NCR, CAR, and ARMM) were added to the 12 regional health offices. A National Health Facilities, consisting of seven (7) special research centers and hospitals and eight (8) medical centers, was also created.



The Republic Act 7160 or Local Government Code of 1991 was fully implemented. The Office for Special Concerns was formed from the branching out of the Office of Public Health Services. The Office of Hospital Facilities, Standards and Regulation was created from the merging of two big offices.

Health projects were intensified. Among these projects are National Micronutrient Campaign, Disaster Management, Urban Health and Nutrition Project, Traditional Medicine, Doctors to the Barrios Program, and "Let’s DOH It"!



Through the Executive Order 102, the functions and operations of DOH were to be aligned with the provisions of Administrative Code 1987 and RA 7160. This year, the Health Sector Reform Agenda of the Philippines 1999-2004 was launched. Reforms include: fiscal autonomy to government hospitals; funding for priority health programs; promoting the development of local health systems and assurance of effective performance; strengthening of capacities of health regulatory agencies and expanding coverage of the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).

The National Objectives for Health 1999-2004, which indicates the Philippines’ objectives to eradicate and control infectious diseases, major chronic illnesses and injuries, was also launched. This encourages healthy lifestyle and health-seeking behaviors towards the prevention of diseases.



The Health Sector Reform Agenda (HSRA), being the major framework for health policies and investments, was institutionalized this year. The National Government Agencies, together with the national and local health stakeholders, and international partners, endorsed the HSRA for approval.



In July 13, 2001, Sec. Manuel Dayrit signed the Administrative Order 37, stating the guidelines on the HSRA implementation plan. Thirteen convergence sites or advance implementation areas were established in this year.



Through Administrative Order 50, the One-Script Systems Improvement Program was established to unify, synchronize, and target priority public health programs.

Sixty-eight DOH-retained hospitals were provided with fiscal autonomy, allowing 100% retention and use of hospital income to improve health facilities.



FOURmula ONE for Health(F1) was launched as a blueprint of reform implementation aiming for a more responsive health system, more equitable health financing, and better health outcomes. Within the medium term 2005-2010, F1 was devised to address the issues on fragmentation of the Philippine health system and inequity in health care. Also, F1 intended to achieve speedy, precise, and well-coordinated critical reforms to improve the health system of the country.



This year, the DOH received both national and international recognitions from the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) and Guinness World Records Limited, respectively. The PAGC awarded DOH as the number one agency to fight corruption. In May of this year, DOH set a new Guinness World Record for the Most Number of Woman Breastfeeding Simultaneously. In terms of national studies and surveys, DOH also ranked first among the government agencies according to the Pulse Asia 3rd Quarter Survey.



Four Administrative Orders – AO 2007-0021, Harmonization and Streamlining of the Licensure System for Hospitals; AO 2007-0022, Violations Under the OSS Licensure System for Hospitals; AO 2007-0023, Schedule of Fees for the OSS Licensure System for Hospitals; and AO 2007-0024, Guidelines for the Licensure of DOH Hospitals – were issued to support the establishment of the OSS Licensure System for Hospitals.

The Technical Assistance Coordination Team (TACT) was created through the DPO 2007-2964 to harmonize the technical assistance provided to the DOH. TACT, with its creative mechanisms, ensures that technical assistance efforts are suited to the needs of various offices.

The Sector-wide Development Approach for Health (SDAH) was operationalized on November 15, 2007 through Administrative Order 2007-0038. SDAH was adopted in the implementation of F1 for Health to gain the development partners’ support in the race to unify the health sector.



The Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health and Nutrition Strategy (MNCHN) was pursued to address maternal and neonatal mortality. Republic Act No. 9502 or the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 made quality medicines more accessible to every Filipino.



With the appointment of Dr. Enrique T. Ona as the new Health Secretary came a new platform on health – the Universal Health Care (UHC). This reform agenda aims to make essential health services, necessities, and quality health care available and accessible to all Filipinos. “PhilHealth Sabado,” as one of the initiatives to achieving UHC, was launched on October 2 of this year.