Ambuja Cement Foundation, India: Health care at people’s doorstep.

Project Description

In rural India, even today, access to primary health care is abysmal. The villages distanced from the cities, with their irregular transport facilities and long distances to their nearest primary health centre, makes reaching health centers a herculean and a tedious task. Hence, villagers often end up visiting quacks and often further complicating their health problem. Ambuja Cement Foundation decided to deal with this reality by creating a cadre of Village Health Functionaries (VHFs) drawn from community, making health services available at rural doorsteps.

Objectives

The project of training and empowering VHFs was initiated with an aim to make preventive and curative health facilities available within the village, create awareness about public health and hygiene and initiate community participation for preventive health care. The intervention was further expected to address specific health care and monitoring needs of expectant mothers and new born children, thus leading to a reduction in maternal and infant mortality, quite prevalent in rural India.

Activities

After a careful selection of women from within the community, intensive training was provided for basic diagnostic and first aid skills, to conduct primary clinical examinations and to administer over- the-counter medicines for basic illnesses to the villagers. The training was imparted by a reputed organisation in health care. Along with theoretical knowledge, the Village Health Functionaries were given hands on training through exposure visits and by assisting the doctors on our mobile dispensary during their visits to the villages. They were closely monitored. After obtaining the basic clinical knowledge and competence to handle primary health care in the village, the VHFs were further trained for pre natal and post natal care of expectant mothers. All new pregnancies were regularly monitored by the VHF right from its early stage, through child birth and until the child was a few months old. VHFs were trained to impart education to families as well as for the physical monitoring.

Results

The project has shown amazing results. Not only do our villages have primary health care at their doorsteps, but have now an awareness of better and safe medical practices, health and hygiene. The infant mortality is showing a drastic reduction and institutional deliveries are preferred over home based deliveries. This project is also economically viable for villagers – it saves not only their time and energy but also their money. Earlier, our villagers were spending approximately 6 Dollars each time medical attention was required, as they needed to get treated at a far off center and often be accompanied by a family member which meant additionally losing a day’s wage for work. This service is today available to them right at their doorstep. And the competence coupled with the compassion with which our VHFs perform their tasks, have made them the first choice in health care attendants in the villages.