Roots of Health was started in 2009 by Susan Evangelista and her daughter, Amina Evangelista Swanepoel. Susan was teaching in the State University in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and was concerned about the unplanned pregnancies and lack of reproductive health knowledge among her students. Amina had just completed a double Masters Degree in International Public Affairs and Public Health at Columbia University in New York City. The two women felt that together they could teach Reproductive Health within marginalized communities and to college students, thereby improving health and the general quality of life in this very poor province of the Philippines.
Roots of Health empowers women and girls to secure their right to health and freedom from violence, and to support and protect the health and well-being of their families. We seek to improve the reproductive health of women and girls and to help reduce the incidence of maternal mortality. We also recognize the importance of girls delaying pregnancy and staying in school. Therefore we provide health education and clinical services in communities and in the local university and high school populations. Roots of Health works by fostering self-reliance, providing scientifically-based, accurate information on health, and improving both health-seeking behavior and access to Reproductive Health services. Programming is community or classroom-based, and utilizes a human rights framework, which includes the core belief that health is a human right.
Poor women in the Philippines do not have access to the essential tools they need to control their fertility. As a result women have more children than they desire, and the country’s maternal mortality rate continues to increase, with 221 deaths per 100,000 live births. Over half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unplanned. We want to equip these women with information about their bodies, their health and their rights so that they will make informed decisions about if and when to have children. We want to make sure that none of these women die of pregnancy-related complications and we want to ensure that every child is wanted, planned and has a healthy start in life. Women are the backbone of these communities. When women are healthier, their children and families are healthier, which leads to healthier communities.