Karishma Bhatia '15

HEALTH WORKER TRAINING IN RURAL INDIA

The current state of Indian healthcare is desperate. India ranks among the lowest nations in the world in such indicators as infant mortality and life expectancy. In addition, allocation of resources has been widely skewed toward urban areas, further negatively impacting the health of rural Indians. Much of the problem can be attributed to the widespread lack of health infrastructure, especially deficiencies in skilled manpower. While a wide network of rural health practitioners (termed PMPs for Private Medical Practitioners) exists, the majority are poorly trained and practice medicine haphazardly and incorrectly. They are often colloquially referred to as "quacks." Through our project, we look to begin transforming this existing network into a legitimate health delivery system. We will do this through a training program that addresses the following problems among PMPs: lack of technical skill, lack of knowledge about proper medical practices, inability to be regulated, and lack of access to facilities. Our goal is not to provide exhaustive academic knowledge; years of medical school cannot be compressed into a few months. Rather, through hands-on training and vocational exposure, our program teaches the most important aspects of medical care. In this way, we will equip rural health practitioners to provide higher quality care. For things cannot continue this way. If we continue treating “quacks” as merely part of the problem, they will continue to be. It is time instead to view PMPs as a solution, one for which rural India has waited far too long. Only then can they become that.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

My first true experience in non-profit work can be traced back four years ago to India. I have been visiting my family there every summer for as long as I can remember. But that summer, something changed. That summer I saw the Indian monsoons flood the city with deadly disease, throngs of leprosy-infected women begging at a train station in my hometown, and young, poverty-stricken mothers unaware of how to save their ill children. It hurt me to see so much pain - pain which could have been and still can be prevented.

My experience has since pushed me to find ways in which I could help establish and promote self-sustainable programs in Indian health and education. Thus when I first stumbled upon the Milana Foundation in my first semester at Brown, I was immediately interested in how the organization approached Indian healthcare reform. I was amazed to learn of the incredible ideas that the organization's members had and was priveleged to help brainstorm a novel way of targeting the healthcare worker shortage in India. 

Health worker training may only be a beginning of the pending Indian healthcare reform. But I know that it is a beginning that has the potential to make a huge difference. I know that even one less sick child or one more malaria survivor can mean the world to an impoverished family. And I know that an informed rural health care worker can bring positive change to a community. At the end of the day, I hope to always have the opportunity to fight for that difference, that impoverished family, and that positive change.  

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