At Jan Swasthya Sahyog, Doctors Rig Affordable Tech For Rural Health

18/11/2015 6:20 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Ganiyari, about 20 km away from Bilaspur, in Chhattisgarh is far away from elementary health care services and that's precisely what's drawn a group of eight doctors from Delhi to rig up steel drums, sleeping bags and styrofoam paper as malaria detection kits, functional spacers for asthma patients and medicine dispensers.

The doctors, once associated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, left the city and chose to organise into a group, in 1997, called the Jan Swasthya Sahyog that's committed to innovating on affordable technology.

Most of the patients, who visit the centre, are tribals and come from as far as eastern Madhya Pradesh to be treated.

"It begins with a question… a problem that is faced by people in the villages," Yogesh Jain, a paediatrician and one of the JSS founder-members told the Indian Express, "Then we try and answer it through science, innovation and ideas. There are 30-odd things that we have developed, of which 26 are being used right now."

One of the first challenges for the JSS was addressing the frequent diarrhoea outbreaks in the villages, and in the vicinity of the organisation. To alert residents about contaminated water, the doctors gave them small glass bottles, containing white tissues, tinged with bacterial feed. To detect possible bacteria, the water has to be collected in a bottle and carried close to the body of a person for a day, in the folds of a saree or a dress, with the heat enabling incubation. Were bacteria to be present, the tissue would blacken and thus alert users.

Other objects invented are a colour-coded thermometer, a water purification device that uses UV light technology and works by using a cycle and a steel drum; a spacer for asthma patients that is a steel glass with a styrofoam cover; an in-house electrophoresis machine; and a sleeping bag with an inbuilt pouch for liquified palm oil, which produces heat for children born prematurely.

JSS representatives said the organisation was a registered society, which relied on funding coming in from both governmental and non-governmental schemes. “One way was to earn money from the services that we provide, but that would take it out of the reach of the poor. So we work basically on funding from organisations, with our tie ups, as well as from our friends and well wishers,” an official told the Indian Express, while listing Tata foundation and Oxfam India among the donors.

Rural health is a major developmental challenges in India with access to affordable medical care being among the biggest hindrances. India spends less than 2% of its GDP on health, which is less than several poorer countries such as Bangladesh.

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