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India’s pink army: Bringing healthcare to doorsteps of deprived

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NRHM

By Bhavana Akella 

Bengaluru, Nov 1 : In a country where quality healthcare remains a privilege of the rich and influential, a silent army of women, clad in pink sarees, work tirelessly and selflessly to make basic healthcare facilities accessible to those who live on the margins of the growing Indian economy, particularly in the country’s vast rural hinterland.

Barely getting time to sleep as calls for help keep coming round the clock, this pink army — as they are popularly known — is the backbone of the primary healthcare in India’s 600,000 villages, providing a connect between the community and the inadequate public health system. These are the trained female community health activists — called Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) — under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the Indian government.

Instrumental in bringing down the infant mortality rate from over 50 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 (when ASHA was launched) to 34 deaths in 2016, these women provide information to people in rural areas about health, sanitation and nutrition; conduct ante-natal and post-natal checkups; assist women during their deliveries, deliver polio vaccines and conduct health surveys.

With many of them mothers themselves, they often take along their children to the clinics at unearthly hours because they can’t leave them behind at home.

Clad in the trademark pink saree, her work uniform, state health worker Godavari Anil Rathore, 23, a resident of Kalaburgi, Karnataka, about 623 km north of state capital Bengaluru, is one of the youngest employed as an ASHA.

“When I was a kid, I remember how my aunt had a baby and lost it just within two months. The baby had contracted malaria after she was born, and my aunt couldn’t bear the pain,” Rathore told IANS.

“It’s an unimaginable pain not to be able to save your own baby, which is one of the reasons why I decided I should help women,” she said.

Rathore has helped over 100 women in her district in delivering healthy babies over the last three years that she has been working as an ASHA.

“It makes me extremely happy looking at women living in the remotest parts of the country with not much money to focus on their health giving birth to healthy children.

“Even though it means that we work an average of 12 hours each day, taking health surveys, carrying out polio drives, assisting pregnant women from the district I live in — right from medical checkups during pregnancy, to the delivery, then getting the baby all the vaccinations, and in the end receiving only about Rs 1,500 for a month.”

Rathore said that every woman she works with “becomes family to me, even if they need me at 3 a. m., I’m there.”

For many Indian villages where hospitals aren’t accessible easily, 860,000 ASHAs across the country (according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 2014) are the only ray of hope in providing medical assistance to thousands of people, and have been working extensively on eliminating polio and malnutrition among infants.

Making sacrifices every day to build a healthier society, these women find it hard to even make ends meet, earning a paltry sum for their services. Over 15,000 ASHAs from Karnataka staged a protest last month at Freedom Park in the heart of the city for a better remuneration from the state so that they could live with dignity.

Rathore, like many other ASHAs, barely sleeps, as calls for help keep coming in from pregnant women round the clock, after a long day of delivering polio vaccines or conducting health surveys. Many a time, she can’t leave her two-year-old girl, Lakshmi, behind at home and takes her along.

“Sometimes, I feel I’m raising my child within clinics with my husband not being at home all the time. But I am glad she’s growing up learning to be empathetic, knowing that as humans we must be able to help one another without any hesitation,” said Rathore with a smile.

ASHAs take pride that they’ve managed to get their communities talking about health and hygiene.

“We are overwhelmed to see people in villages pay attention to sanitation and building their toilets and purifying their water, which they earlier didn’t care much for. These are very important when we talk about health,” Rathore explained.

With every right to quit their difficult job, the women say they continue on because the power to be a part of the birth of a healthy life is unparalleled.

Geetha B, 31, from Ballari district, has been an ASHA for nine years now. A mother of two boys, she takes the responsibility of overseeing the health needs of over 1,500 people in Hariginadone village in Ballari district seriously.

“My vision is always towards making the village a better place. I would have assisted at least 300 women in these nine years in their pregnancies and now I see the kids going to school within the village, children I would have helped while growing up to be healthy. It fills me with happiness each time.”

“Pregnancy comes with a hope for every family. Our job satisfaction comes from seeing their dreams come true, in helping India’s next generation grow up healthy.”

A mother of five children, 35-year-old Nagomi K. from Raichur district, about 400 km to the north of Bengaluru, has seen ASHAs help in transforming the villages in the district over the past 12 years that they have been working.

“In many villages, the women are blamed if something happens to the baby. They have to live with guilt that it was their fault that the baby was born prematurely,” Nagomi told IANS.

With their constant visits to the villagers’ homes for checkups, men also tend to learn from them about their wives’ health, which doesn’t happen in healthcare centres, where the men are just asked to wait in the waiting rooms, she said.

“Even though many don’t recognise the work we do, we are trying to act as bridges involving both man and a woman when it comes to a pregnancy, and having villagers lead better lives in general with better health.”

“A lot of times I assist women who cannot even afford a strip of medicine. That’s when I give them whatever money I have so that the health of the community is never compromised,” Nagomi said.

As Karnataka State ASHA Workers’ Association Secretary D. Nagalakshmi puts it, “These women are the lifelines for our country in letting those who cannot access medical help get every kind of support. They must be credited with raising a majority of India’s next generation.”

Each of the 37,000 ASHAs in Karnataka are working despite severe hardships and have some moving stories to tell, but they don’t hesitate to make any sacrifice in building a healthier country, she said.

India ranks 131 among 188 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) 2016 released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). India was placed behind countries like Gabon (109), Egypt (111), Indonesia (113), South Africa (119) and Iraq (121) among others. The government is working towards improving this rating by creating competition between states to perform better on key social indicators like infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate and life expectancy.

IANS

Health

Heart patients who walk faster hospitalised less

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London, April 22 (IANS) Increasing the pace of walking may bring some added benefits as researchers have found that faster walking patients with heart disease are hospitalised less.

“The faster the walking speed, the lower the risk of hospitalisation and the shorter the length of hospital stay,” said study author Carlotta Merlo, a researcher at the University of Ferrara in Italy.

“Since reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, which has been linked to decreased physical activity, we assume that fast walkers in the study are also fast walkers in real life,” she added.

The study was conducted in 1,078 hypertensive patients, of whom 85 per cent also had coronary heart disease and 15 per cent also had valve disease.

A total of 359 patients were identified as slow walkers, 362 intermediate and 357 fast walkers.

The researchers recorded the number of all-cause hospitalisations and length of stay of the participants over the next three years.

During the three year period, 182 of the slow walkers (51 per cent) had at least one hospitalisation, compared to 160 (44 per cent) of the intermediate walkers, and 110 (31 per cent) of the fast walkers, according to the study published in the European Jo

urnal of Preventive Cardiology.

The slow, intermediate and fast walking groups spent a total of 4,186, 2,240, and 990 days in hospital over the three years, respectively.

The average length of hospital stay for each patient was 23, 14, and 9 days for the slow, intermediate and fast walkers, respectively.

Each 1 km/hour increase in walking speed resulted in a 19 per cent reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalised during the three-year period.

Compared to the slow walkers, fast walkers had a 37 per cent lower likelihood of hospitalisation in three years, the findings showed.

“Walking is the most popular type of exercise in adults. It is free, does not require special training, and can be done almost anywhere. Even short, but regular, walks have substantial health benefits. Our study shows that the benefits are even greater when the pace of walking is increased,” Merlo said.

IANS

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Treat sunburn, improve gastro immune system with yogurt

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New Delhi, April 21: Yogurt, the versatile dairy product, is filled with nutrition and is equally useful for skin and hair. Treat sunburns, acne and improve your immunity with yogurt, say experts.

Himanshu Chadha, Founder, APS Cosmetoofood, and Nmami Agarwal, Nutritionist and Dietician, have listed the goodness of yogurt:

* Treat sunburn: Spread yogurt on the affected area, leave it for 20-25 minutes and then wash it off with lukewarm water. Yogurt is rich in zinc and has anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains probiotics that will help restore your skin’s natural barrier.

Image result for eating yogurt and applying on face

* Treat acne with yogurt as it contains natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Rub a dab of the creamy yogurt onto acne-prone areas. Rinse it off after 30 minutes. A regular beauty regime with a yogurt facial mask will help keep skin cleansed, which will also reduce irritating breakouts.

* Yogurt is a great ingredient for a hair conditioner. It has moisturising properties which helps repair dry and damaged hair.

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Take a cup of yogurt and whip it. Apply it on your scalp, hair and hair ends by massaging it well. Cover your hair with a shower cap and let it rest for 20 minutes, then wash your hair with a mild shampoo.

* Using yogurt, which is full of nutrients that are good for your hair, can help stop hair fall. Due to the presence of vitamin B5 and D, yogurt helps nourish the hair follicles.

A mixture of pepper and curd used daily for washing the hair helps in reducing hair fall. Curd and Amla powder can be mixed together to make a paste that can be applied on the scalp and hair to reduce hair loss.

* Since it is a well-known probiotic food, it helps to flourish the healthy bacteria in your gut which can improve the gastro immune system. Along with this, it aids in digestion by reducing the side effects of the irritant stomach such as diarrhoea, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.

* Strengthen your bones by adding yogurt to your everyday diet. It will add that daily dose of calcium which your body requires for stronger bones as well as for regulating the bone mineral density.

By having a diet in a combination with calcium and vitamin D, it can work as a treatment for osteoporosis.

* Yogurt works perfectly for women. It is often advised for women to consume freshly prepared yogurt in their diet considering they are powerful for fighting against the yeast infections such as Candida which can be a causing trouble to a lot of women.

Image result for eating dahi

The bacterium, Lactobacillus acidophilus found in yogurt, kills the yeast infections and improves health in the longer run.

* Consuming probiotic yogurt helps reduce inflammation and improve the overall body immune response to counter with several viral or gut related infections and illness.

Along with this, yogurt also helps in increasing the absorption of trace minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

IANS

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Switch to stevia for a sweet, healthy lifestyle

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Stevia leaves have almost no calories and does not increase blood glucose.

New Delhi, April 20: In the midst of today’s hectic lifestyle, let’s spare a thought for one of the biggest threats to our health and general well-being: Excess of processed high calories and sugar. It is said that “prevention is better than cure”. Does this mean we should stop consuming food and drinks which have sugar? Maybe not.

What if someone told you that you can maintain the sweetness in your life without adding any calories? And this, from a natural source with the same sweet flavour that your taste buds love? And, yes, with no harmful side-effects? Sounds too good to be true, but nature has gifted us “stevia” — a plant which has sweetness in its leaves — a sweetness that surpasses that of sugar, sugarcane juice, honey or coconut sugar.

Given that stevia can replace unwanted sweetener calories, it can be the one tool for cutting calories from the Indian diet without affecting blood sugar or insulin levels. Plus, it is safe for people with diabetes and is also tooth friendly.

Here are some of its advantages:

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Stevia does not increase blood glucose: Numerous studies have been conducted on the use of stevia and its effects on consumption. The stevia plant’s leaves contain naturally sweet molecules called steviol glycosides, which can be up to 400 times sweeter than sugar, but studies have shown that stevia has no effect on blood glucose levels. Thus, one can consume it without fear of affecting the blood sugar level.

Stevia leaves have almost no calories: It’s a gift of nature that has been used in various parts of the world. The leaves have been used by Guarani Indians in Paraguay for several hundreds of years to sweeten their “matte” (tea). In the 1970s, the Japanese picked it up as a natural sweetening option. Today, it is the No. 1 sugar substitute in Japan and the fastest-growing sweetener in most markets in the developed world like France and the US.

Global safety recognition: Stevia sweeteners are permitted for use in foods and beverages in countries around the globe. Over 200 global studies have illustrated stevia’s safety for the entire family. Studies have also shown that it is safe for pregnant women. Stevia is safe for people with diabetes as it does not contain any calories or carbohydrates and therefore does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels. It has zero glycemic index.

Stevia v/s artificial sweeteners: Realisation of the harm caused to health from consuming excess calories from sugar was the reason that ignited the search for substitutes, or artificial sweeteners. Saccharin, aspartame sucralose and the like became popular substitutes and then went out of favour owing to concerns from public about their origin and perceived lack of safety.

What evidently seals the deal in stevia’s case as a sugar substitute is the fact that it is zero-calorie, zero-fat and 100 per cent natural.

Imagine your rassogulla or gulab jamun without an overload of sugar, serving your child tomato ketchup without thinking of the extra sugar and calories, enjoying a serving of ice cream, cool carbonated drink without any sugar at all. The latest varieties of star leaf stevia can make the greatest taste possible without any harm or guilt.

IANS

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