Lighting Paths, Healing Lives – Dr Michael Burke

HealthServe Australia: Bringing health, hope and wholeness


from Luke’s Journal 2021 | Fire in the Belly 2021 | Vol.26 No.1

Dr Editha distributing roofing materials to Typhoon Yolanda survivors

The Dignity and Right to Health Award is an initiative of International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA). The award provides recognition, support and publicity for the most outstanding role models and champions acting to address health and development issues, including the HIV global epidemic.

It is an international award acknowledging the contributions of Christian doctors, dentists, nurses and other health workers.

The award is an important symbol for ensuring that voices from diverse communities and countries are acknowledged and championed. By granting this award ICMDA aims to model, mobilise and encourage creative and sustainable initiatives that enhance the dignity and human rights of all people, each made in the image of God.

2020 Nominees:

• National Torch of Love Foundation – Suluh Kasih Bangsa (SKB), Disaster Relief, Indonesia

• Dr David Mills, Kompian Hospital, Rural Medicine Program, Papua New Guinea

(WINNER) Dr Editha C. Miguel, FPCP, Agape Rural Health Program, Philippines

Congratulations to Dr Editha and the other nominees on their excellent work. Read on to learn more about Dr Editha and the work she and Agape Rural Health Program are doing in Palawan, Philippines.

Palawan Province in the western Philippines is an archipelago – an expanse of water with many scattered islands. The province is composed of the long and narrow Palawan Island, plus roughly 1,780 islands and islets. Many recognise Palawan as the most beautiful island in the Philippines, and one of the most beautiful in the world. 

The Philippines has made significant investments and advances in health in recent years. Rapid economic growth and strong country capacity have contributed to Filipinos living longer and more healthily. Despite substantial progress in improving people’s lives and health in the Philippines, achievements have not been uniform and challenges remain. Deep inequities persist between regions, between rich and poor, as well as different population groups. 

Dr Editha Miguel, an infectious disease specialist, graduated from the University of the Philippines. She demonstrates visionary and innovative leadership in addressing the health needs of the communities of Palawan. She has felt drawn to serving the poor since she was a medical student. In 1986, Dr Editha and others established the Agape Rural Health Program (ARP) in Palawan –

ARP seeks to improve the health conditions of rural communities through holistic health development projects. As executive director of the first province-wide health program in the Philippines, Dr Editha oversaw the training of thousands of community leaders and village health workers. She sees the training as a way of “empowering the local people by putting their health care in their own hands.” Starting from just one province, Agape Rural Health Program now serves five provinces in the Philippines.

Dr Editha giving a health lecture at the Urban Poor project

Dr Editha has a passion for strengthening programs in reproductive health, domestic violence prevention and HIV care. She and her friends from Campus Crusade for Christ train teachers to teach a twelve month course on character development called ‘Life at the CrossRoads’. She believes that young people, especially women, when appropriately equipped can learn to make wise decisions when faced with life’s challenges. She encourages Christian women to be ready to become leaders when God calls them to that role, such as in the case of Deborah in the Bible.

Dr Editha and her team provide essential health services for communities with difficulty accessing care due to geographic isolation. The health of these communities has always been a concern as seventy percent of these communities and municipalities have had little or no access to any healthcare services over the years since Dr Editha’s graduation. Dr Editha envisions that physical health and social and community development are best approached concurrently within one program, rather than as separate entities. 

Dr Editha believes that unless health workers understand health in a holistic context, taking physical, social and moral/ spiritual needs into account, any health intervention will at most have only a superficial impact. 

ARP believes that progress and development is a team effort involving all levels of society – from the grassroots to the top socio-political level – in implementing any program. With this in mind, it has a focus on building strong relationships with various stakeholders, from both government and private sectors.

The ARP Mission:

To love and serve the poor by being agents of change, empowering people through holistic development.


1. To train individuals and educate poor and needy communities towards self-reliance.
2. To develop community projects resulting in improved quality of life. 
3. To provide compassionate health services to address urgent needs. 
4. To develop social marketing tools and strategies to promote the programme.
5. To provide continuing staff training and development.
6. To ensure sustainability and functionality of programme processes.


A. Training
B. Community Development
C. Social Marketing/Programme Information Dissemination
D. Compassion

Dr Editha exemplifies a life that “does justice, loves kindness and walks humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8). She is a great believer in the ‘multiplication’ of workers – “Training a few so that they too can train others. That has become my guiding principle in life.” She says her strategy is inspired by 2 Timothy 2:2, where Paul tells Timothy to ‘entrust the truth to faithful men who will teach others’. In the same way, she “chose to be involved in programs or jobs that allow me to train others so I can have a greater impact.”

“Looking back, I can see God’s hand orchestrating everything for me,” she says.

Dr Editha lives her life consistent with her motto of ‘Lighting Paths, Healing Lives!’. When asked about her ultimate goal, she says, “We seek to bring lasting transformation by beginning with inner transformation in the lives of the people as they invite Jesus Christ to be the Lord of their lives and their dreams.

Only one life it will soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

HealthServe Australia (HSA) is a Christian health and development agency that builds sustainable health programs globally. It aims to build a community’s capacity for meeting its own health needs, through partnership. Here are some reflections from a February 2020 trip to Java (before COVID halted so many mission journeys), an update regarding the PNG Healthcare Workers Manual, and an invitation…

Dr Michael Burke    
Dr Michael Burke is Executive Officer of HealthServe Australia 

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