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Creating Sustainable Action on Community Health

Location: Patna

Overall health indicators in rural Bihar have always lagged, and despite the establishment of national health initiatives explicitly designed to improve health standards in rural communities throughout India, there has been a large gap between policy intent and implementation. Government health workers on the ground in rural areas have not been trained, equipped, or motivated to provide the mandated services, and as a result many villagers have given up on public health programs, even when some services have been available.

With funding from Simavi, IDF developed an intervention to improve health standards in backward and deprived rural communities, focusing specifically on women's reproductive health and child health care in order to ensure that the next generation would be as healthy as possible. The project, which ran for five years, used existing women's self-help groups as a platform for introducing and disseminating health education materials and promoting routine immunizations and other childhood disease prevention measures. Over time community members also learned and absorbed the message that they were entitled to adequate government health services. Meanwhile, IDF also provided local health workers at various levels with essential training, so that they would be able to provide an adequate standard of care.

As a result of the intervention, women came to understand their own health needs and those of their young children and began to insist on receiving the health care services to which they are entitled by law. While service delivery problems remain, the shift in expectations among the women who participated in the program was positive, significant, and lasting.

Click here for the project report (pdf).

Street play on reproductive and community health