Zuellig Family Foundation – promoting effective and sustainable healthcare systems in the Philippines

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni,
ProMosaik. In the following our next interview of today, with Maricar in the
Philippines, working for the Zuellig Family Foundation engaged in the
field of health and health education in rural Filipino communities. 
How was the Zuellig Family Foundation
The Zuellig Family Foundation is rooted
in the distinctive context of the Zuellig family’s enterprises in the
Philippines.  Zuellig Group traces its roots to 1901 when Frederick Edward
Zuellig came to the Philippines to join a Swiss trading company.  After
over a decade, he became a partner in another trading firm which he bought in
1922 to establish the F. E. Zuellig.  When the Second World War broke out,
Frederick’s sons Stephen and Gilbert were in Manila handling the
business.  The war and the death of their father in 1943 placed all the
responsibilities of charting the future of their family and their business on
the brothers.  The two proved to be highly capable leaders as they not
only rebuilt the company from the ravages of war but also steered it to become
one of Asia’s most prestigious business groups.  As their company grew, so
did their desire to bring forth positive changes to the country where their
business first flourished.
Aside from the family’s individual
philanthropic engagements and the corporate social responsibility (CSR)
programs of the Zuellig Group of companies, both Stephen and Gilbert envisioned
putting up a foundation that will improve the health sector in the Philippines.
In 1997, the Zuellig Group established
the Pharmaceutical Health and Family Foundation which addressed health needs of
nearby communities in Canlubang, Laguna where the new manufacturing plant of
the company was located.  Four years later, the Foundation was renamed
Zuellig Foundation and redirected its attention to advocacy for public health
reforms and training health leaders and professionals. And on the occasion of
their 100 years of business presence in the Philippines, Stephen announced the
grant of P100 million to the foundation to support its work.
In 2008, following a thorough review of
the Philippine health situation, the Foundation adopted strategies that were
envisioned to systematically address existing health inequities and bring
lasting improvements to the health situation of the populace, particularly of
the poor in rural areas.  With this strategic reorientation came another
name-change that highlighted the Foundation’s institutional identity and
brought fulfilment to the brothers’ aspiration to give back to the country of
their birth.  To denote its autonomy from the Zuellig Group, the
Foundation adopted the name Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) whose funding comes
from the family.
Thus, as Zuellig Group and its affiliates
and subsidiaries continue their own CSR programs, the ZFF focuses on the
Zuellig family’s mission of promoting effective and sustainable healthcare
systems in the Philippines, with an emphasis on primary healthcare services in
rural communities.
Which are the main health-related issues
in Philippines for poor people?
When healthcare was devolved in the
Philippines in 1991, most mayors were not ready to manage their local health
systems and left the task to their municipal health officers. Although local
chief executives are mandated to provide healthcare resources, their lack of
preparation and active participation in health prevented the development of a
responsive healthcare system for the poor.
In the research paper “Universal Health
Care in the Philippines” by Paul Gideon Lasco, Bryan Albert Lim, and the late
former Health Secretary and ZFF trustee Alberto Romualdez, Jr., there are
“great disparities in access to healthcare, resulting in significant difference
in health status between the rich minority and the poor majority of Filipinos.”
ZFF addresses this gap by empowering local leaders with the proper tools and
training to systemically implement reforms so their healthcare systems respond
to the needs of the underprivileged, that is, to improve the access of the poor
to affordable (even free) and quality healthcare.
How do you identify and select the
communities where you intervene?
The Foundation initially targeted areas
that belong to these three general criteria: generally poor; geographically
isolated and disadvantaged area; and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Leaders from these areas must foster the willingness to join ZFF’s health
leadership formation programs, with the main focus on bringing better health
outcomes for mothers and children and for the community in general.
For the Community Health Partnership
Program, a program where it first tested its prototype Health
Change Model
, ZFF seeks nominations from different development
organizations, civil society organizations, and government agencies. The next
step is a shortlist of local government units (LGUs) with poor health indicators
but with health leaders—mayors and municipal health officers —who are committed
to complete the program and improve their community’s health systems. These
leaders then attend a Final Selection Workshop before they formally enter the
For the Health Leadership and Governance
Program, the Department of Health (DOH) regional offices first select from
among the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) priority LGUs. If it is a
non-NAPC priority but with a significant maternal mortality rate and/or has low
facility-based delivery and skilled birth attendants, the LGU is also
considered for the program. Using an assessment tool, DOH development
management officers review the pre-selected LGUs for their suitability to the
program. Health leaders from these LGUs must attend a Final Selection Workshop
to answer questions from the DOH regional director, a representative from an
academic partner, and a ZFF account officer. Those who pass are enrolled in the
Which are the main features of Public
Health Leadership Formation program? What are tools that you provide with it?
The core of ZFF’s health leadership
training for public health officers is to foster the understanding of the
complexities of the healthcare system to enable health officers to realize
their roles in addressing existing challenges, and to collaborate with others
to address them. The programs underscore the importance of health leadership
and governance in establishing and sustaining pro-poor healthcare systems and
Training sessions are created to
specifically fix gaps and formulate reforms in six building block of health
system identified by the World Health Organization: leadership and governance,
financing, workforce, service delivery, information system and access to
The programs are: Municipal
Leadership and Governance Program, Health Leaders for the Poor, Health
Leadership and Management Program, Provincial Leadership and Management
Program, Barangay Health Leadership and Management Program, City Leadership and
Governance Program, Continuing Leadership in Health and Development Program,Nutrition
Program and Family Planning.
To know more about the
specifics of each program, visit
Do you cooperate with local authorities
and institutions? If yes, how?
Yes. ZFF has program partners for its
different leadership formation training programs, resource partners who
complement its leadership formation interventions in partner areas, and
academic partners to run its training programs for local health leaders under
the Department of Health and ZFF partnership, Health Leadership and Governance
Program. These partnerships are instrumental in promoting ZFF’s health
You can find the list of partners for
specific programs and areas here: