Working on health at different levels
Suchana’s health strategy has three prongs:
- Strengthening preventative health, health information and primary care in the home, using a mixture – according to available strengths – of herbal, allopathic, and homeopathic approaches;
- facilitating the access of those who most suffer discrimination to the health services that are available locally;
- developing ways of improving the accountability of local health services to the poor communities they are supposed to serve.
Who we are:
Satyanarayan Roy, a qualified homeopath from another neighbouring village is our key agent in the second initiative. He has an excellent network of contacts amongst the medical community and knows his way around the local health centres and the subdivisional hospital. He organised Suchana’s eye clinic in partnership with the hospital; a refraction testing clinic in partnership with a private optician, and he accompanies villagers to the hospital on their initial visits to help with admissions, out-patients consultations, and pre-operative tests for cataract patients. He is also involved with village-level care, particularly post-operative checks and guidance.
Krishna Konra is our own village ‘apprentice’ to Satya. We hope that by working with him, and by receiving external training when appropriate, she will gain enough knowledge and experience to become our own village Health Worker.
Home visits for Primary Care
Our health workers visit the Suchana villages twice a week, record family health histories, work on and teach the home-based treatment of common problems such as worms and skin diseases, and make suggestions for improving sanitation arrangements (such as building bamboo drainage shelves to keep crockery off the ground). They give homeopathic and herbal treatment in situations which have a good prognosis with these treatments and give advice on referrals and available allopathic services for other problems.
The communication of information is integral to the home visits. We are also building up a set of health literature in Bengali which can be accessed by all (literate) villagers for reference. We conduct health workshops on different aspects of primary health: with men and women in the villages; with the teachers at the Early Learning Group; and with the Early Learning Group children.
Linking to local services
Suchana team up with the subdivisional hospital to run eye clinics. Following the clinics, Suchana’s health workers manage the complicated procedure of preparing people for cataract operations, helping them with hospital admission, and providing vital follow-up care. Cataracts are a common problem here, affecting people in their late 30s onwards. Operations are free at the government hospital, but to access the hospital independently you need to be determined, well organised, and relatively powerful.
Suchana has also partnered with private sector health organisations: a private optician comes to do refraction tests in the village at a flat rate, with costs shared among those who access the service. Suchana provides a subsidy on glasses for ELG children diagnosed with refraction issues.
Helping people access government and private health care services
Suchana’s health workers put people in touch with the relevant services and often accompany them to ensure they get the right care. Small loans are available in carefully assessed critical cases. In cases of chronic illness, the health workers troubleshoot problems with medication and other issues, and liaise with government services to solve them.
The health workers have undertaken an extensive TB screening process and linked identified patients with the government DOT programme which provides free treatment.
Special care for non-thriving infants
Suchana arranged for one baby to receive special care from a local NGO:
Linking people in to local services: Budhni’s baby
Budhni died, sadly and unnecessarily, when her baby was a month old. After her death, her baby, Lokkiram, was cared for and breastfed by his grandmother, Sonamuni, who was also breastfeeding her own youngest daughter Muni, then a year old. Muni is Sonamuni’s twelfth child, four of whom, including Budhni, have died.
Lokkiram, despite the sincere efforts of his family, did not thrive. He became thin and quiet, and developed a severe skin infection which the family could not shift although they visited three different doctors for treatment.
Lokkiram was five months old when Suchana first employed health workers. With their understanding of the situation facing this family, including of their pride, they sensitively helped the family send him to a local long-stay clinic run by Sisters of Charity, where pre-school children who are not thriving at home are cared for until they are stronger.
This situation is not ideal. How much better it would be if Lokkiram’s family had the resources to manage the child’s care themselves. But in the meanwhile, access to this service almost certainly saved Lokkiram’s life. Sonamuni and Muni visited Lokkiram every Saturday for two years – a four-mile walk each way. Now Lokkiram is back with his family and a junior member of Suchana’s ELG.