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Health Initiative At Ekal

Ranjani Saigal

Dr. Mukul Bhatia, the architect of the health initiative at Ekal  presented a talk at MIT describing the challenges of providing health care to remote areas in India and the innovative models that Ekal has created to handle these challenges.  The talk  was hosted by MIT India.  The event brought together students from MIT, Tufts ,BU, researchers from the Tata Center at MIT,  doctors and entrepreneurs.   The event opened with a welcome by Melanie Mala Ghosh, the director of MIT – India. 

 Ekal is an organization with the largest footprint in remote rural India. It has a presence in over 54,000 villages.  The organization was inspired by Swami Vivekananda who said “if a poor boy cannot come to school, the school should go to the poor boy”.  Ekal started single teacher schools in the remote rural villages  that they run at the low cost of $1/day.   Health care education was imparted as part of the education efforts. 

“We started by just providing awareness to tackle preventable diseases. We trained workers to become Arogya Sevikas to provide information to the villagers. Pretty soon we noticed that Anemia is a big issue in the rural areas. Anemia is a leading cause of maternal deaths.  It also leads to issues in children and thus can affect an entire generation. So we decided to target Anemia” said Dr. Bhatia. 

“We piloted three methods to tackle the Anemia issue.  One study used allopathic medicines, Vermicides and Iron tablets. In another we used Ayurvedic medicines . In a third pilot we used just counseling advocating lifestyle changes. While Allopathy and Ayurveda helped hemoglobin content increase in by 80-90% the lifestyle change enabled increase by 70%. We are excited by the third number for it provides a sustainable method to solve the problem” said Dr. Bhatia. 

“Sanitation is also a big focus for the health initiative. Soak pits at hand-pump stations can prevent stagnant water pools thus help preventing mosquito breeding and malaria. We are also working to bring toilets and clean water”

“We run heath camps in the villages.  We are now also having a Chikitsa Sahayita Kendra in the nearby city from where villagers are provided referral to a reputed  doctor who is guaranteed to not cheat the villager and provide care at the lowest cost. This is a big need for the villagers” said Dr. Bhatia. 

“At this time we do not make any significant use of technology. There is a huge opportunity for technology  to impact our work. We would love to collaborate with people who may have ideas along these lines” said Dr. Bhatia. 

“The problems are challenging.  We can either talk about it or do something about it. We can work together to make a difference”  said Aveneesh Matta, a charted accountant from India who has committed to growing the health initiative. 

To learn more about Ekal , check out their website at http://ekal.org

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