It is common knowledge that health care services in rural India are not easily accessible and health awareness among the people is poor. Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), a learning and development organization has stepped in to improve the situation in rural Maharashtra through a programme called Arogya Sakhi reports The Better India.
Arogya Sakhi empowers women in the community to become health care workers and provide health care services by training them to conduct medical tests for rural women. These women are also called community health friends or sakhis and are equipped to create health awareness and collect health information.
The sakhis charge a nominal fee of Rs. 150 from each beneficiary, which includes cost of generation of report, printing charges, doctor’s fee, conducting tests, and even delivering the reports at door steps. After accounting for all costs, a sakhi is usually able to earn Rs. 50 to Rs. 70 per beneficiary. This helps them become self-dependent as well as take on new public roles as entrepreneurs, leaders and changemakers.
The service includes conducting basic tests using blood pressure machines, glucometers and recording the information on the tablet which is then accessed via the cloud by a physician. Data is reviewed with the help of experts and a reports is generated within 2 days. The sakhis deliver these reports to the patients and also provide some basic a basic understanding of the report and convey the necessary care and precautions that need to be taken based on the report. People with unfavourable reports are referred to the local SSP network hospitals for further care.
A survey revealed that 80 percent of women and girls were anaemic, there were several cases of hypertension and diabetes. Frequent health emergencies also affected the economic condition of many families very severely. To tackle these issues SSP started the Arogya Sakhi project in 2005 and soon implemented technology through diagnostic devices and a tablet which has a pre-installed Arogya Sakhi app. The SSP teams says,
Apart from conducting door-to-door visits, we also organize community meetings, SHG group meetings, adolescent girls meetings, village health check-up camps, and health talks inviting health experts from government health department and private hospitals.”
So far Arogya Sakhi programmes have spread over three districts of the state, across 53 villages, and 20 Arogya Sakhis have been trained to benefit over 1,800 women so far. SSP plans to set up a Health & Nutrition Hub and over the next two years aims to empower 100 Arogya Sakhis to provide awareness and health services to over 300,000 community members across 300 rural villages.