In the heartlands of central India, illness is compounded by large socioeconomic deprivation, limited communication, and poor transport. Here, health care services are often inaccessible, the and the public health system continues to remain understaffed, undersupplied, and hence, underutilized. In such a scenario where a reliable health care delivery system is lacking, efforts to extend the reach of our existing health care delivery system to the areas “where there is no doctor” has culminated in the development of a well trained and supported community workforce- the senior health workers.
While the village health workers continue to provide the first contact care, they are limited in their ability to handle complex medical situations. Senior health workers have a greater scope of practice and are trained to:
- Treat common health problems, handle emergencies, and manage chronic illnesses under supervision of a physician
- Carry out basic investigations
- Recognise serious health conditions and refer them to appropriate health care providers
- Educate their community about disease prevention and maintaining good health
- Investigate epidemics and follow up public health problems at the village level
Senior health workers are selected from a competitive pool of applicants from over twenty organisations. In August 2015, the third batch of senior health workers, comprising of 18 trainees from 8 organisations in various parts of India- Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh- underwent a rigorous three-week training.
The training comprised of modules on water borne diseases, fever, ante natal care, under-3 child nutrition, animal bites, hypertension, injuries, as well as hands-on skill session on suturing, injection techniques, map making, carrying out a survey, investigating an epidemic, and basic arithmetic skills. Community Participation skills were also developed through field visits and interactions with individuals, families, and communities on common health problems, antenatal care, and serious illnesses.
For continuous learning and experience sharing with the team of new trainees we are starting a forum – ‘Swasthya Samvad’, a newsletter for senior health workers. Newsletter with important video links from it is here: