Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In India, ASHA means hope

I just read a short article in Time about community health workers.
In the developing world, health care is being increasingly augmented by these workers. If they have a certain measure of secondary schooling, they get one year of on-the-job training, and they are saving lives.
The stigma of AIDS in Africa is still so great that many choose not to seek treatment. A community health worker (from here on out known as CHW) will visit people in their homes, help them get tested at home and get counseling, and can encourage them to get into a treatment program.
Many women choose to have their children at home, but a CHW can arrange emergency transport to a hospital delivery room, lowering infant mortality; those who are too weakened by diseases such as cholera to get to a clinic can receive supportive treatment at home; and children with malaria can be assessed, helped, and hospitalized if needed.
There are programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to train CHWs. The biggest program is India's National Rural Health Mission. In a little over three years, the program has trained and mobilized over half a million new CHWs. They are called an ASHA, which stands for Accredited Social Health Activist, but is also the Hindi word for "hope."
Companies and organizations are joining the fight. Ericsson provides phones and systems for training, reporting statistics, and arranging for emergency transport, and the Gates Foundation is providing mobile phones for consultation purposes. An Indian computer company has worked with the government of one of that country's states and was able to provide emergency response for 80 million people.
Such supportive care could mean a breakthrough in controlling diseases that result in millions of deaths. Expanded financial support for CHWs and training programs would strengthen this care even further. And take note, America: we've got plenty of people in our own country, rural AND urban, who desperately need access to health care and would benefit greatly from such efforts. I hope our government takes a look at what is happening in developing countries with these CHWs and is able to learn something from it.


sybilsybil45 said...

I have read of the Asha programme before.. It is wonderful how much people with, what some people would call little formal education, can be trained to teach others and care for them...As you so rightly say( from what I read about the health care in your wonderful country) ..I am sure in the USA the Asha organization could be doing some great work....I remember my Sister who had to visit the US on some child care work and she came home more distressed than I have ever seen her...She said that in India she expected to see poverty and disease...but she had never expecte to see it in the USA...  Lets all pray for the sucess of AHa wherever they find work...LOve  Sybil xx

gen0507 said...

Good ENtry!!!  That's another reason I like reading your journal.  I get educated!!!


wykdwife said...

ASHA is an excellent program. I've known about for a time. Community health workers are life savers - literally. One would hope this country would learn something but at the rate we're going here it may be a long time comming.

Great post!


mereel2005 said...

As a former health care provider, many of us had begged for years for such a program. I would even be willing to return to nursing if such a program as CHWs came to our shores.

wwfbison said...

We finally got a doctor in our little corner of the world and he is so busy he added a partner & built a new office. From the looks of most of those born & raised here, we are in desperate need of a dentist though.  I agree the US should be taking notes.

markonit said...

... this is just one of the heartbreaking things about life ... and there is no easy answers for these kinds of questions ...