New Delhi: India’s Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHA workers were awarded and honoured by the World Health Organization (WHO) for their ‘outstanding’ contribution to advancing global health and their demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues. ASHAs are an all-female cadre of community health workers constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare under the National Rural Health Mission in 2006. They are the first port of call for any health-related demands of deprived sections of the population, especially women and children. ASHA workers are chosen from within the community and are held accountable for it. Gurgaon’s Poonam, an ASHA worker’s story establishes the same. Poonam has been working since 2006 and plays a critical role as she serves as a link between the community and the public health system.
Poonam is currently working in Gurgaon’s, Tigra village which has a population of over 2,000 people. In the initial years, there was a need to create awareness among families about basic healthcare. The women had to be convinced to come to the camps organised by ASHA workers. As the benefits slowly came to be noticed, more and more women began to become the beneficiaries of the program. Poonam tells NDTV,
My job is to first conduct surveys. During the surveys, if I find any pregnant women, I get their registration done, get them tetanus shots, make their medical cards and get their various tests done. Then, through their nine months, I call them four times to get them tested and then take them for delivery to a government hospital. Post-delivery, for about one and a half months, we check the baby’s weight, the mother’s condition, and take care of food and nutrition. After that, we make sure the child is given all the vaccines.
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The medical cards that ASHA helps people avail, keep a medical record of each woman and her child, this becomes especially helpful for the vaccination, Poonam explains.
Earlier nobody knew about us, who we are and what work we do, they would say some ASHA worker has come, but now not only do they know about us, they even call us themselves, Poonam adds.
Kavita, a beneficiary from Poonam’s village tells NDTV,
The ASHA has helped us in many ways. Earlier, women here in the village did not have any knowledge about these things. Now we get vaccinations, we are called here from time to time for checkups. Our card is made and our blood pressure and weight is also regularly checked.
Poonam is one of India’s one million ASHA didis, as they are called, who acts as an interface between the community and the public health care systems. She plays a pivotal role in mobilising the community for proper health care practices.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.