The recently inaugurated Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani International Centre in the Mumbai smart city Kharghar came as a great boon to the surrounding area as it announced its provision of cardiac surgery for children free of charge. While this alone would be a major contribution to the area, the positive aspects of the Centre do not end there. The training of ASHAs in cardiac based diagnosis could drastically improve treatment outcomes.
In addition to the provision of surgery, Sri Sathya Sai Health and Education Trust has pledged to provide free training to accredited social health activists (ASHAs) in paediatric cardiac skills. The training will focus on providing the ASHAs with a deeper understanding of antenatal care, as well as assist in the identifying of children with cardiac health issues.
The training will follow the guidelines of the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) initiative. This initiative set forth a policy of early screening and intervention, coupled with a link between local communities and the relevant health services.
The intention of the training will be to allow the ASHAs to reach out beyond the bounds of the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani International Centre into rural areas that are typically more difficult to access but are part of their everyday work as community health workers, facilitating broader outreach. In doing so ASHAs could use their training to identify children in the often impoverished rural regions who would benefit most from the free services provided by the Centre. In particular, the focus will be on early identification and diagnosis of children with congenital heart disease.
Allowing for ASHAs and other community health workers to be trained in identification and diagnosis before connecting the affected individual with the relevant health authorities may alleviate some of the burdens placed upon India’s doctors — at the very least, freeing their time from diagnostic duties.
The lack of properly trained healthcare professionals is staggering, particularly within rural areas. In many cases, doctors outright refuse to work in rural regions due to the lack of infrastructure negating their ability to perform their job. In many cases, quack doctors fill the void. The consequence is that rural areas, despite shouldering the majority of India’s population, endure a minority of healthcare professionals.
There are potentially one million quack doctors operating freely in India. Some may have basic levels of healthcare training; others simply peddle false cures to those desperate enough to buy them. The fact that these unlicensed individuals are so common is a testament to India’s need to recruit more doctors and medical professionals.
The efforts of the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani International Centre to train ASHAs will not solve this issue. However, allowing individuals other than doctors the trained capacity to diagnose disorders frees up time for the doctors to treat individuals. It may not solve the problems within the system, but the training course may alleviate some of the burdens of the system and increase its efficiency.