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Meet Dr Rani Bang And Dr Abhay Bang, Pioneers Of Maternal And Child Health Among Tribal Communities

Meet Dr. Rani Bang and Dr. Abhay Bang, who are known for their work in providing healthcare in the tribal belt of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra and for transforming the way India tackles high infant mortality and reproductive health in rural areas

In 1986, Dr Rani Bang and Dr Abhay Bang decided to return to India after completing their master's degree in public health in the USA at Johns Hopkins University. The couple, who could have gone to practise medicine anywhere in the world, chose to work in the rural and tribal belt of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra which is one of the most impoverished districts of India.

They founded the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH) and transformed the way India tackles high infant mortality and reproductive health in rural areas.

According to Dr Abhay Bang, ?The biggest challenge was how to provide child and neonate care in rural areas. Gadchiroli had only a few doctors at that time, and even among them, nobody was serving in the rural areas. So, we thought a literate man and woman in the village will be the best solution. We called them ?Aarogya Doot' (messengers of health). We selected one man and one woman from each village and trained them in taking care of a sick child by examining, diagnosing and if it is Pneumonia then giving oral antibiotics'

In order to be responsive to the cultural sensitivities of the area, and to create a tribal friendly space that wasn't intimidating, the Bangs' clinic, set up in 1993, was modelled on a typical tribal home. Their Shodhgram campus not only houses the Ma Danteshwari Hospital, but also a temple for Ma Danteshwari who is a tribal deity.

Dr Rani and Dr Abhay Bang also focus on non-communicable diseases such as hypertension/stroke and have also been working on the problem of alcohol addictions in the district.

To understand how women felt themselves, Dr Rani bang talked to several women from different villages in the district, Dr Rani Bang said that she found in her study, published in The Lancet in January 1989, that 92 per cent of the women suffered from some or the other gynaecological or sexual disease and only 8 per cent had received treatment of any kind

The Bangs are honoured for their leadership in community-based health care that has helped save the lives of millions of the most vulnerable newborns and children.

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