Improving Rural Health Care, One Boat Trip At a Time

Thursday, June 4, 2015

More than 10 years ago, Sanjoy Hazarika heard about the death of a mother in a remote island in Assam, a state in northeast India, because she couldn’t get to the hospital in time. This led the soft-spoken professor to think: Why not bring the hospital to the people?

And he did just that.

In 2005, the Center for Northeast Studies and Policy Research, where Hazarika serves as managing trustee, realized the Indian government wasn’t going to build clinics on the geographically isolated islands along the Brahmaputra — a transboundary river flowing from Tibet to Bangladesh — and that people there couldn’t access services on the mainland.

The concept received a boost after C-NES entered into a partnership with the government under the National Rural Health Mission and also received a grant from UNICEF.

Beginning with just one boat, a few staff members and one district, C-NES now has grown to having 15 boat clinics across Assam, the state with the highest rate of maternal mortality in India.

“These people are not physically visible to the government,” Hazarika said. “Our delivery of health care has to address the different demographics of the river.”

The boat clinic provides family planning services, immunizations, antenatal care and general checkups. But the professor noticed the disparity in health care needs within Assam, noting how a Muslim minority population with large families in the Lower Assam division has better nutrition than people in upper Assam, where malnutrition rates among children are high.

Source: Devex (link opens in a new window)

Health Care