New Delhi: On August 15, NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India marked India’s Independence Day with a special episode – Saluting Bharat Ki ‘ASHA’ with Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The episode was dedicated to the one million ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, who are the backbone of rural health infrastructure in India and have been on the frontline of the country’s war against undernutrition and health for many years. To know more about the kind of work ASHA workers do, the challenges they face and the need to strengthen, upskill and motivate ASHA workers to continue with the services they provide, team Banega Swasth India spoke with Susanta Kumar Nayak, Senior Consultant, Community Process, National Health Mission, Government of Odisha. Mr Kumar has been managing the ASHA programme in the State of Odisha since 2008.
Here are the highlights of what he said on the show:
- When we select an ASHA worker, the aim is to pick an ASHA worker from the same community, village or town so that there is a sense of belonging.
- In a year, we undertake, 10-12 days of training for ASHA workers that help build their knowledge, skill and competency, which, I think is very important.
- Initially, in India, the focus was on maternal and child mortality. Now, along with that, the focus is on decreasing the load of non-communicable diseases. So, it is very important that our ASHA workers are up-to-date and skilled.
- Their incentives are also very important. We need to ensure that all ASHA workers feel motivated and ensure their services are being done well.
- The state of Odisha has the highest number of incentives in the entire country. We also ensure that there is no backlog in their payment. There are also a lot of awards and recognition programmes undertaken in the state – all this is done to build an enabling environment for ASHA workers so that they stay motivated and continue to sustain their efforts in helping other members of society.
- Some of the challenges that ASHA workers face on a day-to-day basis is to reach people and provide their services at the doorstep. Even today, many people stay in difficult locations or habitations, to reach there and provide primary healthcare is a challenging task.
- Initially, the healthcare programme was limited to some areas only. But, now a number of programmes have come and strategies have changed. Therefore, it is important that ASHA workers are skilled enough to take these programmes and strategies to every nook and corner of the country.
- In Odisha, what we have done is that we have figured out what are the most difficult areas and what are the areas where there are not many challenges. We have started dividing the ASHA workers accordingly so that the load is not on a few selected ASHA workers.
- Secondly, every year, we ensure, we increase ASHA workers’ incentives so that they all can stay motivated to do their job.
- I think, India also needs to enhance the amount of salaries that ASHA workers receive. As the number of tasks and activities they do has increased over the years.
- India also needs to ensure that they are getting paid each month for the kind of work they all are doing. And there is also the need to uplift and further strengthen their status.
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.