Telemedicine in the remote valleys of Kumaon

Posted in Village Ways Charitable Trust on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Collaborations, training and telemedicine – to enable Health for All in the remote valleys of Kumaon, Uttarakhand

High up in the Kumaon hills, Dev, a young child was seen running home through the green meadows. “Careful! Careful!” shouted his mother Parvati, in a desperate bid to stop her child running so fast. What if he fell and hurt himself? What if he cut himself?

Looking out the window was Nirma, a pregnant woman, who lived opposite Parvati’s house. She had a seven-month old baby bump. She was making plans for her first visit to the Hospital next week. She was hoping that her mother would be here by then. She knew that her husband would not be able to come this time. Somebody needed to stay back and tend to the fields before the monsoon rains began.

These are not isolated cases. By choosing to stay back home close to the beauty of the valleys, the hardworking Kumaonis face the burden of almost nil access to basic primary health care.

Even the recent Niti Aayog Report, reveals a lack of health education and awareness and availability of basic public health interventions (e.g. immunization, oral rehydration therapy, water and sanitation) for pregnancies and young children.

Closer home, the entire expanse of Saryu and Pindar valleys, the only health care facility available is via access to a Community health Centre (CHC) at Kapkot block wherein not only the means of transport to the facility but also availability of health services is limited.

 

The Tulsi Tele-health Care Project

Having worked with the communities in Saryu and Pindar valleys of Kumaon region to improve preventative health care since 2008, Village Ways Charitable Trust realized the acute need for curative health care and wished to assist further. Close on-field observations of grass root realities emphasized the need for basic primary health care. There were practically no doctors in the area. The Trust looked for innovative solutions that could effectively bring in comprehensive primary health care to these remote and marginalized communities.

Through discussions with the luminaries of Public health and IT sector, and with full involvement from the local government health authorities, a multi-level partnership plan was arrived at: to implement the Tulsi Tele-health care initiative. The Trust is collaborating with a leading tele-health pioneer in the country in order to negotiate a robust software. Engagements with government to secure backing from various departments including Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Women and Child Development department were undertaken. Buy in from the community to work jointly towards the solution was leveraged and networking to work out the diagnostics and service providers initiated.

Thus, with support from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and solid partnerships forged at community level as well as at the technology level, Village Ways Charitable Trust, is now poised to implement the Tulsi Tele-health Care Project in these remote hill villages. The Pilot project, funded by our long-term Partner, Good Earth Lal Family Foundation,  aims to bring in solutions from all quarters to help heal the ailing primary health care system in the marginalized valleys. Training of the local youths as Health Assistants is already underway and they are expected to be certified as Front Line Workers by end of August, which will enable them to deliver primary care using a software-enabled tablet connected to a back-end team of doctors consulting from remote locations. The Trust is currently working on identifying the team of doctors and medicine suppliers in the area in addition to identifying points of health care at the village level. The aim is to have the project in place in six months and for it to be integrated into the existing public health infrastructure in three years, to ensure that the efforts sustain beyond the project period and continue to benefit the communities.

 

 

About the Author:

This blog is written by Dr Tejaswi Balasundaram, the Project Head in Village Ways Charitable Trust. She is a Dental Surgeon with post-graduation in Public Health with over five years of experience in maternal and child health, preventive health care, WASH and school health programmes. In case of any queries, you can reach her at tejaswib.villagewaystrust@gmail.com.