The majority of the rural population in the villages of Osmanabad in Maharashtra still use traditional fuels such as firewood for heating and cooking purposes as it is available locally and at no cost. Health risks due to poverty such as low nutrition and sanitation are therefore on the rise in rural areas. In response to this in such areas, Swayam Shikshan Prayog developed the Arogya Sakhi programme to create awareness around preventive health care services across underserved communities.
App development posed particular challenges for SSP as the application was created for the use of the Arogya Sakhis. As a result, a simplified application was developed. Further, the application also had to allow upload in remote locations where there could be low connectivity.
In addition to this the entire tablet, healthcare testing and medical device systems had to deliver a low cost per beneficiary which also included a fee for the Arogya Sakhi and the doctor. This proved challenging as the target of the programme consists of rural beneficiaries.
Further, remotely connected villages have a lack of awareness and access to health services and infrastructure. This has resulted in an increase in latent illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiac issues. Simultaneously, respiratory and reproductive issues and anemia remain prevalent among women and adolescent girls in the villages. There is also an increase in waterborne diseases due to low awareness of water, sanitation and hygiene practices. The programme (and the application) thus had to be able to examine each of these issues while also supported through awareness programmes conducted by SSP in the region.
SSP combined its overall goal to empower rural women to earn a livelihood with improved access to affordable health services by engaging them as responsible health entrepreneurs under the Arogya Sakhi project. Arogya Sakhi aims to deliver preventive health care solutions to rural households through rural women entrepreneurs using mobile health diagnostic devices and modern technology.
The programme empowers rural women who are trained as Arogya Sakhis and taught how to use a range of diagnostic health devices (such as blood pressure machines, glucometers, testing for hemoglobin and peak flow meter) in order to undertake medical tests that are uploaded to the cloud via the mobile tablet. The Arogya Sakhi’s make door to door visits to conduct their medical tests and undertake surveys of the population.
The information collected by the tablet includes a personal medical profile, history of medical conditions, test results and health background. Once the information is uploaded onto the platform it can be accessed by doctors who are in hospitals in the larger cities who provide feedback and generate a medical report for the beneficiary. This report is then made available to the beneficiary via the Sakhis who provide them with an understanding of the report and inform the beneficiary of the necessary medications and or lifestyle1111 changes that need to be made to address the medical issue. If the beneficiary has been detected to be at high risk for any diseases or conditions they are referred to the SSP local hospital network for treatment.
As a result of the project, ordinary rural women have become extraordinary health entrepreneurs who deliver affordable healthcare through technology innovations at the last mile.
Expected Outputs in the first year include 12, 000 people made aware of these services and access to preventive healthcare and nutrition building practices established across 16 rural villages in Maharashtra. The project aims to empower four rural women as Arogya Sakhis or health entrepreneurs with enhanced technological and diagnostic skills to deliver door to door preventive health care services across 16 villages. It also aims to decrease household medical expenditure through counselling and on time referral services by Arogya Sakhis.
The project has already empowered 19 rural women as Arogya Sakhis in 53 villages across Osmanabad, Ahmednagar and Pune districts in Maharashtra, and they have reached 730 beneficiaries to conduct preventive tests and reached out to over 15, 000 community members in their preventive health care, hygiene and sanitation awareness efforts. It eventually aims to reach 60, 000 people through a network of 100 Sakhi’s by 2017.
It is hoped that through the project SSP will be able to decrease the household medical expenditure through counselling and on time referral services delivered by the Arogya Sakhi programme.