Promoting Maternal-Child Health in Rural India

In 2015, WEIF launched several initiatives to promote health for women and children in remote, under-served communities. Poor health and lack of health information and resources pose an additional challenge to women and children in communities ascending out of poverty. Over the past five years, WEIF has been addressing maternal and child health by training local healthcare experts, and we plan to continue our efforts to spread health knowledge into 2016 to remove poor health as a barrier for families and communities working to achieve financial stability.

Training Local Health Experts

Between 2012 and 2016, WEIF and GVET trained 36 youth as nurse's aides to provide health information and basic care to their communities in Dahanu Taluka, Maharashtra, India. Under the new Maternal-Child Health Initiative in 2016, WEIF and our partners trained six additional nurse's aides in Dahanu Taluka, and three in the slums of Sion, Mumbai. Trainees spent six months learning theory at the Nareshwadi Learning Centre and six months receiving hands-on training at KJ Somaiya Hospital in Mumbai.

These nurse's aides acted as health educators and a first point of access for healthcare in the remote communities of Bhandanpada and Muhundulpada, and held information sessions on important issues such as nutrition, hygiene, and neonatal care to promote the well-being of families and improving health-seeking behaviour in the region.

Dahanu Taluka Region

In Dahanu Taluka, all graduates of the nurse’s aide program from 2012 to 2016 are either employed in local nursing homes, or completing an Auxiliary Nursing and Maternity course to become eligible for government jobs.

In 2014, two graduates of this program were selected to work on a Maternal and Child Health Pilot program designed by the NLC to assess existing practices in antenatal and post-natal care in tribal communities, the effectiveness of care available at the Government Primary Health Centre, and to identify gaps that need to be addressed. The aim of this initiative is to curb infant mortality and support the health of women while also assessing coverage of the immunization program for children under five. In 2016, WEIF implemented the full Maternal and Child Health project in Bhandanpada and Muhundulpada - districts within Haladpada, a Warli tribal village in Maharashtra state, which included:

  • Hiring a local female nurse from the tribal community to work at the health center with the physician and provide culturally safe healthcare while tracking outcomes of women and youth and ensuring pregnant mothers are registered for prenatal care.
  • Training health outreach workers to deliver one-on-one and group education sessions on nutrition, breast-feeding, family planning, sanitation and immunizations.
  • Tracking the immunization and nutrition status of local children and ensuring they have access to nutritional supplements, health care, and vaccinations.
  • Starting a medicinal plant plot at the local Primary Health Center with local medicinal herbs that can be used to reduce the costs of medicines. Once the plot is established, women will be encouraged to take cuttings from the plants to grow their own home remedies, further decreasing cost.
  • Focusing our Village Improvement agricultural livelihood training programs on pregnant women and the mothers of young children to improve financial stability and food security in conjunction with health knowledge and outcomes.

Beginning this program with support from the Government of Alberta Community Initiatives Program has led us to touch the lives of 100 women and their families in Bhandanpada and Muhundulpada, and ensured that the 10 women pregnant this year had access to appropriate nutrition, prenatal vitamins, and healthcare throughout the peripartum period. All children under three and a half years or age have received the appropriate vaccinations, and the outreach workers also ensured all older children are registered in the local school and they their booster shots and government health cards are up to date.

Health Camps in Bihar

The remote villages around Padampur in Bihar, the second poorest state in India, and the site of the Manthan supplementary schooling program, were also in desperate need of a maternal and child health intervention. Health challenges, accompanied by limited education and minimal access to healthcare have created a barrier in communities trying to develop financial stability. As part of the multifaceted cultivation and livelihood project (Village Improvement Program) initiated by WEIF and supported by Luke Four Foundation, from 2014 to 2015, health camps were held for the villages of Parsoni, Padampur, Lokahi, and Lakshminiya.

Each village hosted a health camp for one day in March 2015, and between 105 and 112 community members attended each camp. In Parsoni and Lakshminiya, Dr. Jitender, a pharmacist with a diploma in medical science and 15 years of hospital experience volunteered his time to see patients and address common complaints. In Padampur and Lokahi, Dr. Digambar, a professional physician (MBBS) with 12 years of experience saw patients. In total, the two health care providers saw 437 people over the course of four days, including 272 children, 105 women, and 60 men. These health camps were part of WEIF's ongoing attempt to address the desperate need for health care in these remote communities. These camps provide health care, and increase community health knowledge, while local organizations work towards more sustainable health care solutions.

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