This Healthcare Model From Tribal Odisha Has Been Replicated In Philippines & Syria

Follow Us On

In a metropolitan city, where super-speciality hospitals brazenly advertise their world-class (and expensive) medical facilities, the residents often find themselves in a fix while choosing the best one for even the simplest treatment. At the same time, not too far from the cityscape, a small village may be struggling to find even a single doctor or clinic.

The drastic difference between the two pictures clearly hints at a drastic disparity in healthcare in India, a country where around 70% of rural settlements fail to assure quality healthcare to more than half of her citizens. Inevitably, India, the second most populous country in the world, stands at a deplorable 145th rank in the Global Healthcare Index 2018. To change the scenario, Intelehealth, a tech-based non-profit, has come up with a unique primary healthcare model. Based in Odisha, Intelehealth has positively influenced over 50,000 tribal people who had negligible access to healthcare even a year ago.


The story behind Intelehealth

Founder Neha Goel is a health entrepreneur, who launched her first health service venture at the age of 19. Growing up with doctor parents, Neha was well-aware of the problems existing in healthcare in India. She interacted with Dr Acharya from Johns Hopkins University, who seconded her idea for a solution. Together, they started planning the Intelehealth model since 2016, which was deployed on-ground in rural Odisha from January 2018.

The app is super easy to use

Talking to Efforts For Good, Neha explained the intricate model of Intelehealth whose efficacy is ought to leave one in awe. The open-source care delivery model is controlled through a very basic app. “We have a team of health workers in the villages who form the backbone for our model. 10th or 12th-pass village women with a basic understanding of health and medicine are trained by our experts following which they are delegated to help out the community,” informs Neha.

The app has been developed in such a way that these women can easily handle it without any assistance. There are more icons and illustrations than wordy instructions, which guide the health workers evenly, one step at a time. In addition, the app is available in the local language.


How the Intelehealth model works

Presently working in Khamar area of Angul district in Odisha, the Intelehealth core team has selected 30 health volunteers from among the villagers who go from door to door inquiring about the need for any medical intervention. This simple approach has been immensely effective in gaining people’s trust.

When there is a patient, the health worker associated with that particular village reaches with her ‘backpack clinic’ in no time. Operating from makeshift health clinics, be it under a tree or inside the patient’s house, the health workers connect the patient to the doctor through Intelehealth’s telemedicine portal.

Be it three days’ fever, stomach ache or a throat infection, all symptoms are conveyed to the doctor, who generally responds within a few hours. Based on his prescription, the patient is directed to a nearby pharmacy where they can get the medicines. “We have one health worker for one village or a cluster of small villages. One doctor is assigned to a group of villages,” shares Neha.


72% of their beneficiaries are women

Catering to a population of around 50,000, Intelehealth finds 72% of their beneficiaries among the women. Neha shares, “These tribal women were the worst affected. Firstly, due to the patriarchal mindset of the families, they are rarely allowed to seek medical treatment for their personal problems, mainly gynaecological. They always need to be escorted by a senior male family member to even visit the village clinic.”

Intelehealth has eased things a hundred times for these women. They can now openly approach the women health workers with their gynaecological issues and get a doctor’s consultation in no time. Even in the domain of maternity and paediatric care, they are now getting expert advice which is difficult to find in a rural zone.

The elderly community comprises another major chunk of the beneficiaries of Intelehealth. They come mostly with problems like Arthritis, weakness and other age-related complications. Even a bit of simple advice on physiotherapy and basic medicines do wonders for these people, who otherwise give in to suffering or faith-healing.


Helping the villagers avail existing govt benefits

The Intelehealth model is super affordable for these low-income tribal communities, costing only 70 paisa per person in a day.

“We mainly focus on primary healthcare,” clarifies Neha, adding, “But in case of an emergency, the doctor is consulted immediately. As per his advice, the health worker connects the patient with the nearest ambulance service and health centre.”

Intelehealth aims to help the patients learnt about and avail the existing health benefit schemes in the state. “Odisha government has a scheme ‘Niramay’ which provides at least 250 basic medicines for free to the underprivileged people. We try to direct the patients towards this and many other such schemes,” tells Neha.

Neha shares the story of an elderly patient who was diagnosed with a kidney ailment at the local hospital, where he was given an estimate of Rs 3 lakhs for the surgery. He had planned to mortgage his property; his kids had to be pulled out of school. The Intelehealth doctor informed him about the ‘Ayushman Bharat’ scheme, where all his medical expense for the surgery would be covered.


Worldwide success of Intelehealth

The momentous success of the Intelehealth model can be assessed from the fact that the Health Ministry of Philippines has created a similar model in their country. Since their healthcare problems are quite similar to rural India’s, the model suited just perfectly, benefitting a whole nation.

In war-torn Aleppo, Syria, Intelehealth model has been adopted and replicated with success.
Efforts For Good applauds this unique programme by a dynamic woman social entrepreneur and hopes more people across the world find the benefits of this one-of-a-kind community healthcare model. 


Also Read: Life After Death: Organs From This Kolkata Man & Indore Woman Save Eleven Lives

Love this story? Want to share a positive story?
Write to us: [email protected]
Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

Follow Us On

A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
Next Click right arrow to read the next story Previous