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Improving the Health & Livelihood of Rural Communities through Diagnostics

In the last two decades, urban areas across India have seen major developments. But rural areas haven’t developed much. Despite the constant efforts to boost the rural economy, there are many issues plaguing their development and growth. These include poverty, low literacy rates, and lack of basic infrastructures like schools and hospitals. 

The issues are critical as they dampen the country's economic growth, and need to be addressed. While there are many government policies focused on improving the quality of life for rural communities. For successful implementation, it requires adequate funds, an appropriate policy framework, and effective delivery machinery. 

Their implementation is slow because of conflicting priorities between political parties or leaders, overlapping jurisdictions, and more. But, these reasons vary from place to place. 

As a result of this youth migrate to urban areas in search of new opportunities. 





Rural to urban migration

Migration from one area to another in search of improved livelihood is a key feature of human history. When some regions and sectors fall behind in their capacity to support populations, people migrate to access emerging opportunities in developed areas.

Some of the jobs people take up in urban areas include construction, sanitation, and other blue-collar jobs in factories.  

While migration is seen as an opportunity by rural communities, many cons are surrounding it. 

It widens the gap between rural and urban areas and causes a shift of the workforce towards industrializing areas. Rural livelihood practices such as agriculture, handicrafts, and more have also disappeared. 

Mass migration increases poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment. When poor, landless, illiterate, and unskilled laborers move to the urban cities they are eligible only for minimum employment. This affects their access to housing and essentials like food, water, electricity, sanitation, and transportation.   

Owing to such struggles, many people opt for seasonal migration. This means they stay in urban areas for a few months to work and spend the next few months back in their hometowns with their families.

According to studies, seasonal migration increases the risk of developing health complications such as nutritional deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases, and more. 

Further, the affected communities are not able to utilize the existing health services. Either they cannot afford treatment, there is a lack of awareness about early diagnosis, or villages do not have technology and infrastructure.  

Hence strengthening health care systems among vulnerable groups is a priority. 

Impacting health and livelihood 

Taking both these issues (healthcare and livelihood) into consideration, Public Health Technologies Trust (PHTT) launched an initiative named Social Health Entrepreneur. 

In 2016, working along with Idea and Vodafone as the funding partners, PHTT planned to create Social Health Entrepreneurs (S.H.E) who are willing to work in rural areas as the intended workforce is FOR COMMUNITY BY COMMUNITY. Locals were motivated and trained in digital diagnostics by experts. They provide medical support to the people at a low cost and conduct door-to-door visits for aged patients and pregnant women. This reduces the need for doctors in the initial screening of patients. 

The self-sustainable project also helped people in rural communities successfully earn a livelihood and avoid the hassle of migration.  

With the two organization’s combined effort 200 devices were deployed across 20 districts in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan. By 2021, a total of 5.7 lakh beneficiaries were registered and 13.5 lakh diagnostics were carried out.

The program not only helped communities get access to quality diagnoses & also created a patient e-profile where they can access instant results and reports. In 2017, the program was deployed in Shamli, Uttar Pradesh, and was well received among locals. What’s more? The program remains active today.

Author

Roshini Muthukumar

Roshini Muthukumar, a native of Chennai, started her career as a content writer but made a switch to journalism to pursue her passion. She has experience writing about human interest stories, innovative technology, entrepreneurs, research blogs, and more. Previously, Roshini has done internships with The Hindu, Metroplus and worked as a correspondent with The Better India.