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Survey bares health care crisis in villages

Report has so far covered about 1 lakh people in North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Murshidabad, Nadia and East Burdwan districts

Jhinuk Mazumdar | Published 13.12.22, 07:59 AM
Representational image

Representational image

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A survey by an NGO in six districts of West Bengal has laid bare rural people’s poor access to health care, which leads to worsening of chronic diseases.

The survey, which started in June, has so far covered about 1 lakh people in North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Murshidabad, Nadia and East Burdwan districts. 


The idea of the campaign is to screen “under-served rural communities, many of whom are reluctant to consult doctors or go for health checkups”, said the head of Rural Health Care Foundation, the NGO that is conducting the survey.

The findings of the survey reveal that people in rural areas have been living with undiagnosed conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, eye problems like glaucoma and cataract, skin diseases, arthritis and gastrointestinal diseases.

The sufferers remain untreated because the problems are undetected, an outcome of poor access to health care.

“About 70 per cent of the patients are women, who neglect their health because they are not earning members of the family. The men are reluctant to seek treatment and the women are further deprived. In rural areas, any non-earning member is seen as a liability. They seek intervention only when the condition is advanced,” said Anant Nevatia, founder of Rural Health Care Foundation. 

Individuals aged 10 or more are among those being surveyed. The surveyors have come across children with eye problems and malnutrition. There have been instances of people ignoring eye problems such as low vision. Check-ups revealed they have cataract or glaucoma. 

“Rural people routinely go to a pharmacy to get over-the-counter medicines, instead of visiting a medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis and treatment,” said Nevatia.

“Since they visit doctors when the problem is at an advanced stage, it becomes difficult to address it. The ailment at that stage requires longterm treatment,” said Nevatia.  

Health-care assistants of the foundation do a preliminary survey to record signs and symptoms of possible illnesses or health complications. “We then counsel and encourage them to seek treatment from the nearest healthcare facility,” said Nevatia. 

“But we encounter a reluctance to go to a doctor,” said a member of the NGO who works on the field.

At eye camps, the NGO hands reading glasses to people with poor eye sight. “We ask them whether they are seeing better. It is when they agree that we tell them that they need a thorough eye check-up,” said a member. 

Nevatia said that so far they had been able to persuade about 8 per cent of the respondents to visit health-care centres after the preliminary screening.

The foundation, which started its journey in 2009, runs health-care centres in each of the six districts where the survey has been undertaken. Most of these are primary health centres.

The survey was done by women from within the communities who are trained by the foundation.  “Since they are women from the communities, their acceptability is high. The survey also helps generate employment for these women,” said Nevatia.

Last updated on 13.12.22, 07:59 AM

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