Indian villages lack healthcare facilities: Dr Raj

web57CHICAGO: “If I were to generalize my observation based on my visits to villages in six districts of Gujarat, I would not be off the mark asserting that India needs creating big awareness about diabetes, hypertension and basic sanitation to combat health care challenges in rural areas,” said Dr Raj Patel, President, Young Physicians section of Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO).
“Educating people in rural areas about the impact of hypertension, diabetes and dental problems is the first step in addressing the problems posed by these diseases and lack of adequate sanitation. The next step would be to provide facility for primary care and creation of mechanism for regular supply of drugs. It was not uncommon for villagers to trek miles to get even primary health care and compounding this was the Herculean task of getting medicine,” he said.
Dr Raj had been on the second lap of his visit to Gujarat last month as part of SEVAK project initiated by the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI). He met a number of health care professionals, government officers, NGO workers and villagers. He had first hand feel about the health care needs of the people as well as absence of adequate health care facilities in villages.
Dr Raj is only 27 and has bagged number of recognitions and awards besides involving himself with number of extra curricular activities besides the AAPI – SEVAK project.
“Many villagers whom I met and had examined were not aware that they suffered from hypertension or diabetes.

Most would not realize that they badly needed a network of reasonably good sanitation. Many villages did not have primary health care center and if there was one, it would not have qualified health care personnel all the time. The medical stores dispensing medicines were far and few and probably none of them dispensed medicine 24 hours,” he said.
The lack of organized delivery of health care and poor availability of preventive health care would not sum up the entire problem. It would be a blessing if a village is assured of clean drinking water. The cooking media and kitchen also left much to be desired.
“I have come across scores of residences where the use of traditional Chula is common for cooking. This generated lot of smoke and that could account for ailments associated with lungs. I strongly feel that the villagers should be educated switch to portable Chula,” Raj said.
It is not that the government is totally inactive or neglecting to address the healthcare needs of the villages. It does organized immunization drive and the people take advantage of it whenever and wherever it is available. “Sadly however, immunization though available, does not cover all those who need it,” Raj said.
Another problem is not only for the people in villages but even for those in cities. There are medical clinics and hospitals in towns and cities, and people from distant villages do go there when the problem gets severe. “But these hospitals are crowded and provide only acute care. These facilities are not well staffed or adequately financed or even well equipped for vision screening or preventive care. Life style modification education is not available. Indian villagers work hard in the farms and lose wages when they travel to another town for care. They need local preventive health care and screening for common diseases such as diabetes and hypertension,” he observed.
Dr Raj strongly advocated creation of a pool of medical personnel who would primary address three basic problems that rural people face:
1) Creating awareness about the disease and preventive measures needed to meet it
2) Creation of primacy health care centers which could be even sort of mobile clinics going from villages to villages
3) Ensuring adequate supply of drugs and impressing upon the patients their regular use.
This along with addressing the need for better sanitation- toilets, smoke free kitchens, cleaner roads, etc. would go a long way in creating basic frame work for healthier villages.
Raj said that he has amassed a great deal of data and would have one more follow up visit coming December to Gujarat. He would like meeting NGOs and government officials and share his findings with them to devise measures for improvements.
Granted that the government at the local and even at Federal level lacks resources and also a will to address these problems by itself, it is up to NGOs and private parties to step in and collaborate with the government in creating infra-structure for healthier India since India still lives in villages. I will study the problem in this light,” he said.

Ramesh Soparawala
India Post News Service

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