First the good news.  300 people in 5 villages where there is no doctor are now being diagnosed and treated for high blood pressure and diabetes.  All these years, not even 10-15 people in these villages were being diagnosed, as they didn’t have access to a medical practitioner. Then more good news. This is happening in 45 sets of such 4-5 villages where AID partner SATHI (Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives) is intervening to ensure delivery of health care at the last mile in rural Maharashtra, India.

A game changer for rural health

In a move that can impact rural health care if implemented properly, the Indian government created the post of Community Health Officers (CHO) who would head the Health and Wellness clinics (previously called sub-Primary Health Centers) that roughly look after 4-5 villages each.

As Dr Abhay Shukla of SATHI says, for the first time, within reach of every village,  we have someone (the CHO) who can conduct OPDs (Out-Patient Care) and diagnose and treat conditions like tuberculosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The CHO is a graduate in the health field while not being an MBBS or an MD.

To ensure that the rural health system stays accountable to the people, the government blueprint called for Jan Arogya Samitis (JAS) or People’s Health Committees to oversee the health clinics.  However, this was not implemented in practice.

With support from AID, SATHI stepped in to actualize JAS committees

SATHI facilitated the formation of 45 JAS committees in 45 Health and Wellness Clinics in 3 blocks spanning two districts of Maharashtra. Pictured above is the CHO in Ambegaon Taluka with JAS members.

Each Jan Arogya Samiti is composed of the villages’ Sarpanch (village head) as president, the community health officer as secretary, and draws its members from the 5 villages served by the clinic.  The JAS  includes school teachers and even a couple of school children, 5 ASHA workers (community health liaisons in each village), and the village Anganwadi worker (responsible for countering malnutrition in children under 5 years).