A sip of (community) health drink
Training one or more community members to meet the basic health care needs of the community forms one of the central pillars of community health programs. They also serve as resource people who can guide individuals through the public health care system – from the primary health clinic (PHC) to community health centers in the nearest town. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), launched in 2005, has led to focus efforts from the govt. to improve access to health care in rural communities across the country.
Community Health Cell (CHC) has been training community health workers (CHWs)in different parts of Karnataka for the past many years. NRHM has allowed CHC to plug into the govt. health care system much more effectively than was possible a few years ago. Jan Arogya Andolana (JAA, People’s Health Movement, Karnataka) has transitioned from a pre-NRHM to a post-NRHM mode of working. In a few places community health workers trained by CHC have been active and practicing in their communities for almost a decade now while in a few others it has been under a year. A two day program was organized in Bangalore by CHC for CHWs from about 8 districts of Karnataka. The program was designed for discussing experiences, challenges and concerns of inidividual health workers and to exchange ideas and tricks they have learnt on the job. Being the spouse of a CHC Fellow, I attended the morning’s proceedings on the first day.
There were resource people from CHC, FRLHT (an organization working on local health traditions), and community health doctors from a couple of different institutions and backgrounds. Almost all the CHW who came to the meeting were women, two men from Northern Karnataka were the exception amongst some 35 or so women. The most impressive in the gathering though, were the CHWs. Many of these women are single, divorced, separated, or widowed. Some of them have some form of disability. They shared their (often turbulent) history quite dispassionately; when they started talking about their work, they were totally transformed. The passion shone through and the energy was really infectious.
The fun part of the discussion I sat through was when they discussed their favorite remedy. Given my inclinations towards ‘kesh seva’ (hair care), I was all excited to note down receipes to some concoctions to improve hair quality and stimulate hair growth. Ground (soaked) methi seeds, egg white, fresh squeezed lime, and coconut oil heated with neem leaves were known ones that came up. Leaves of neem and pomogranate ground with soaked methi and moong seeds was a new one. (Other instructions: work it in to soak the scalp; sit in the sun for about 10 minutes after application; and wash it off with plain warm water.) Apparently it is a treatment for head lice, but even without any un-invited guests, I tried it a couple of times. I can confidently say that my hair felt much better than it did after any other wash I have had since I started growing my hair long. 🙂