Maternal and infant deaths are very common in rural & tribal pockets of India. In addition to availability of facilities, lack of knowledge, beliefs in quacks (untrained doctors) and archaic cultural beliefs also play a crucial role in creating these problems. For example, in these regions, most families do not take required precautions during pregnancy, prefer to deliver babies at home rather than at a hospital, and do not take required immunizations. Statistics like Infant mortality, Maternal Mortality and Life expectancy at birth, are worse in rural areas and for tribals, than they are for urban areas and non-tribals.1,2 We believe that health education is necessary to improve this situation. We need to impart crucial knowledge to mothers, families and communities, so as to change behavior and practices, and spread messages that can save and protect the lives of children and help them grow and develop to their full potential.
THE HAC STRATEGY
SwaasthyaSaathi (SS) (field functionary) will be selected from the women living within the community to do health awareness work. They will be provided with technology, like tablet computers, to support them in this work. The tablet computers would be pre-loaded with health-care related content, like videos related to best practices of mother and child healthcare. The content would be converted to languages understandable to the tribal people, wherever needed. The SS would be trained on using the tablets, and on basic healthcare awareness. The work of the SS would be to show the videos and other content in the communities, with the hope that spreading awareness would improve the healthcare situation in those communities. The SS will be given a monetary incentive based on how many videos were shown, and to how many people. We might develop an Android application to keep track of such data. For more information, please check this document.
THE JOURNEY TILL NOW
We initiated the pilot of this initiative in Singaniguda village, Podia block, Malkangiri district of Odisha. The pilot has been successful in giving essential knowledge to mothers & communities about the importance of first 1000 days of a child’s birth & necessary practices to be followed. This idea got selected for the “Forbes Under 30” conference at Philadelphia, USA. We have now expanded the initiative to Matteru & Metaguda villages of Podia block. We have notice increased participation of mothers in Immunization drives, VHND (Village Health & Nutrition Day) and a positive difference in their child health practices. We have learned many lessons in this journey & are working to improve this model.
- Basu, S. (2000). Dimensions of tribal health in India. Health and Population Perspectives and Issues, 23(2), 61-70.