A good maternity care is the foundation of a healthy society. While traditional wisdom still prevails in communities with little influence of modern technology and services, it does not always offer the best possible solutions available.
One of the challenges that primary health centers (PHC) in rural India are facing is to make people be aware and trust the medical services that they provide. Offering a substantial amount of cash & a maternity package (pictured below, containing all the basic goods needed for a new born baby) to give birth in the PHC is an exemplary effort to attract such population to the advanced medical service.
I have experienced maternity indirectly through people around me. But not much when it comes to the real realm of parental responsibilities. In January, I had a chance to visit government-run health centers in Udupi district in South West India. As an unexpected byproduct of the visit, I learned a great deal about maternity healthcare.
The printed material for the maternity care fascinated me (to be honest, I donâ€™t know what material is available in other countries). This government issued maternity education and record keeping material design is very visual so that literacy level does not matter much in using it. In any case, all the materials come available in the local language of the region.
The record for vaccination needs to be kept by the family for at least 5 years, depite it being just a mere piece of paper. It acts both as a record keeping tool as well as reminder for the future visits or activities.
Field workers, called asha (accredited social health activist) are vital for rural healthcare in India. While the majority of population lacks an official identity, these field workers walk the ground on foot, visiting house to house for families that they are responsible for and get all the needed information manually to update the records back in the office. They are also the mobile networks to disseminate information, mediate communications, and educate residents on health. Tey are the mobile healthcare enablers, where both families’ and doctors’ mobility is compromised due to the lack of vehicles, roads, or time. Above all, they are the human and humane keys to open the suspecting hearts to the potentials of modernized, unfamiliar services.
If you look at the whole of healthcare as a service, you will see a lot of parts that can be improved dramatically by implementing technology solutions replacing the existing roles of peopleâ€™s manual work. More often than not, service designers should really try to foresee whether the partial replacements would become a sustainable part of the whole organic process.
A bigger part of the total cost of implementation in getting technology solutions into existing processes is often about changing the human practices after all, ranging from re-training staffs and users, to political and social policies. How will roles of ashaâ€™s change in the coming years? What would be the crux of their role that would remain stronger than before? Where should the first investment of changes be?
I deeply thank doctors at the primary health centers, who opened the doors for us and took their valuable time. And the Manipal University staffs who kindly guided us.