Two Indias: Looking after mothers in rural Chhattisgarh and urban Bengaluru

by Rahul Devi

Title: Bridging the Healthcare Gap: The Critical Role of Village Health Workers in Chhattisgarh

Introduction

In the rural villages of Chhattisgarh, a predominantly tribal state in central India, access to healthcare and proper information is a constant challenge. This has had a significant impact on the health of expectant mothers and their children. However, through the efforts of dedicated health workers like Santoshi Gandharv, a senior Village Health Worker from Semaria, positive changes are happening. This article will explore the vital role played by Village Health Workers in improving healthcare in remote areas like Bilaspur district, and highlight the existing disparities between rural Chhattisgarh and urban India.

Healthcare Disparities in Chhattisgarh

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) for the period 2019-2021, Chhattisgarh has higher child mortality rates, underweight women, and lower rates of antenatal check-ups compared to the national average. This places expectant mothers and their babies at a greater risk of infections and complications. The lack of access to vaccines, especially for diseases like tuberculosis and polio, further exacerbates the vulnerability of the population.

The Role of Village Health Workers

Santoshi Gandharv, along with other Village Health Workers, plays a crucial role in addressing the healthcare needs of the community. They are elected by the villagers themselves, based on their relationships within the community, and are trained to provide basic healthcare services. These health workers are knowledgeable about minor ailments, chronic diseases, and the importance of vaccinations for pregnant women and newborns. Through their regular village rounds, they identify pregnant women and ensure they are registered for antenatal care clinics.

Building Trust and Disseminating Information

Trust is fundamental to the relationship between Village Health Workers and the community they serve. Community members elect these workers based on their familiarity and rapport. This trust allows health workers to disseminate important information about vaccinations, antenatal care, and general healthcare practices. In an area where access to healthcare and information is limited, these health workers have become a reliable source of knowledge and support.

Addressing the Urban-Rural Divide

Puja, a midwife who has worked both in Bilaspur district and in Bengaluru, highlights the stark differences between urban and rural healthcare settings. She notes that while urban areas have better access to healthcare and a wider variety of food, rural areas face greater challenges due to malnutrition and limited access to resources. However, she emphasizes that access to clear and comprehensible information is crucial in both contexts.

Importance of Informed Decision-Making

Puja practices “informed decision-making” by providing parents with relevant information and helping them navigate healthcare decisions. She acknowledges that misinformation exists and parents often come with questions. Building a strong personal relationship with expectant mothers and their families is vital in guiding them through confusing topics such as vaccinations, medicines, and nutrition.

Closing the Healthcare Gap

Although progress has been made in combating communicable diseases and malnutrition through organizations like Jan Swasthya Sahyog, the disparity between rural Chhattisgarh and urban India remains substantial. Issues of access, affordability, literacy, and social disparities contribute to the existing healthcare gap. Dr. Nafis Faizi, an epidemiologist, highlights the need to focus on women’s health and address intersectional challenges in order to bridge this gap effectively.

Conclusion

The work of Village Health Workers in Chhattisgarh is essential for improving healthcare outcomes in remote areas. Through their dedication, trust-building, and dissemination of information, these health workers play a critical role in maternal and child health. However, addressing the disparities in healthcare requires a comprehensive approach that addresses not only reproductive health but also overall women’s health, nutrition, and social provisions. By focusing on these aspects, we can hope to bridge the healthcare gap and ensure a healthier future for all in Chhattisgarh and beyond.

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