Rural Health Welfare

Undoubtedly the Indian health scenario has made promising developments in the last two decades. However, when compared with the global scenario, the picture is grim. Our medical infrastructure is worse than not only developed but developing countries too. However, the bright side is the private sector involvements in the health scenario. The recent 51% foreign direct investment promises newer techniques, tie-ups and newer equipments.

However, all these are mostly compartmentalized in urban sectors. Health care in rural India still poses a major challenge to the Indian government. Rural India is still burdened with high mortality rates especially among women and children. The government has introduced a large number of developmental and public health care programmes. The most notable amongst these are the Integrated Child Development Program (ICDS). This multi-lingual programme is aimed at providing important information on health care to the rural communities with special emphasis on women and children health care. The other issues in focus of the ICDS programme are nutrition, hygiene, first aid and diseases.

Rural health care in India received a shot in the arm with the introduction of the E-Health Points (EHP) in the northern states of India especially Punjab. Dr. Allen Hammond and Dr. Amit jain envisaged the Health Point services in India (HSI) in 2009. HSI owns the EHPs operating in the 5 districts in the Malwa region of Punjab. Apart from providing medicines, comprehensive diagnostic facilities and advanced tele-medical services, EHPs also aim to impart clean and safe drinking water and sanitation awareness among the rural population of this area. The concept of EHP has been largely successful in reducing health problems and increasing human productivity in this region. Since the EHPs became operational some of the important achievements to this programme has been processing the processing of 33,500 tele-medical consultations and 19,500 diagnostic investigations. Currently 8 EHPs in operation have created 100 water points providing safe drinking water to 5,00,000 people. The success of the EHPs can be attributed to its scientific and methodical approach towards alleviating the problems of rural health care by using facilities like broadband, telemedicine, electronic health records, mobile diagnostics and reverse osmosis based water purification. The EHPs have become more popular in the rural areas because of its abilities to provide diagnostic services and generic medicine to the rural poor at subsidized rates and even further discounts for the rural people below poverty line (BPL).

Siemens have played a key role in reducing poor health care in the rural areas by introducing mobile clinics. These are buses equipped with a fully functional doctor’s chamber along with a diagnostic laboratory capable of performing advanced medical examinations. The diagnostics have an array of hi-tech medical instruments including common instruments like X-ray, ultrasound, mammography and electrocardiogram machines. In the last six years, these mobile units have set up 800 camps in northern India and have treated over 60,000 patients. 25 such mobile units are operational currently. The mobile workers also provide important advice and education to the rural people for the prevention of certain diseases that originate from lack of sanitation and poor nutrition.

Development and planning in India has always focused on rural health welfare. Government programmes such as the ICDS and independent efforts like the Siemens mobile units, plan to meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals for “improving conditions in developing countries in the past ten years.” We can safely conclude that rural health care is looking forward towards a better tomorrow.