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HealthTech-Women’s Healthcare in Rural India


HealthTech- Women's Healthcare in Rural India

If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship program, you can access our application link here.

 

Rural healthcare in India is a critical issue that has been long overlooked and underfunded. This has left many residents in remote areas without access to adequate medical care, leading to significant disparities between rural and urban areas, as well as between the rich and the poor. However, with the rapid advancements in technology, it's time to bridge the gap between urban and rural healthcare and bring innovative solutions to those who need it most.


One major issue in rural healthcare is the lack of awareness and education, particularly among women. In many societies, women are already at a disadvantage when it comes to healthcare, and in rural areas, the challenges are even greater. Socio-cultural factors and poor practices add to the social stigma, which makes it difficult for women to access quality healthcare services.


The healthcare system is hugely fragmented, with people who have money having access to the best possible care, while those who do not are left in the lurch. This gap is enormous and is wider when it comes to rural India. However, with the implementation of technology like telemedicine, robotics, and artificial intelligence, we can make healthcare services more accessible and affordable for all.


One company that is taking action to improve rural healthcare is Docty.ai. Their "Phygital Care" program, "Gali Gali Mein Digital Clinic," aims to set up 100 digital health kiosks across India, providing remote access to healthcare services. This is especially important for women's health, as they often face additional barriers in accessing quality healthcare.


Women’s health is of particular concern because, in many societies, they are disadvantaged by sociocultural factors. Women need to breach many social barriers to get access to quality health care services. Health-seeking behaviour is one of the important determinants of women's health.


Women are generally more scrutinized in rural areas where 73 percent of the poor live. Women need more high-quality nutrients when they are pregnant or nursing; however in some areas of India, women typically eat last and least. More than half of all Indian women are anaemic due to a lack of essential nutrients.


In fact, nearly 22,000 people, mainly pregnant women, die every year from severe anaemia. This lack of nutrition is transferred to their children who have impaired physical and mental development. Women who are breastfeeding girls typically nurse the female child two months less than male children. The National Family Health Survey III states that optimal breastfeeding prevents many dangers of malnutrition. The rate of breastfeeding within one hour of birth is only 25 percent in India. New mothers also lack access to adequate care during their pregnancies, during delivery and postnatal care. Poor health has repercussions not only for women, but also for their children and other family members.


But affordability and availability aren't the only challenges facing rural healthcare. A lack of awareness also plays a significant role. A survey conducted by the RRH organization found that only 34.5% of participants sought medical care as soon as symptoms appeared, and 60.5% only visited qualified medical practitioners when they were ill.


It's time for us to take action and close the gap in rural healthcare. By utilizing technology, we can make healthcare more accessible, affordable, and awareness for those who need it most. As Jawaharlal Nehru said, "You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women." Let's work towards a healthier, happier nation for all.




Rural India's Healthcare Dilemma: Overcoming Affordability, Awareness and Accessibility Challenges


(a) Affordability is a major challenge for rural populations in India when it comes to accessing healthcare, particularly for women. According to a study by the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, utilization of healthcare services is dependent on educational level, with 70% of illiterate women not availing Antenatal Care (ANC) services, compared to 15% of literate women. Additionally, the study found that rural women (43%) are less likely to receive ANC services than urban women (74%). This highlights the fact that affordability is a major barrier to accessing essential healthcare services for women in rural areas.


Another study by the National Health Systems Resource Centre found that affordability is a major challenge for rural populations in India when it comes to accessing healthcare and other basic needs such as sanitation, education, and food safety. The government allocates only a small percentage of the total gross domestic product (GDP) towards healthcare, which is roughly 2%. This lack of investment in healthcare is reflected in the financial burden that it places on rural families, with poor households spending an average of 14% of their income on healthcare. This varies from state to state. This highlights the fact that many rural families are forced to prioritize other needs over healthcare, due to its high cost and limited availability. This lack of access to affordable healthcare in rural areas is a major barrier to the improvement of health outcomes for women and their families in rural India.


(b) Awareness is a significant challenge when it comes to women's healthcare in rural India. A study by the International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health found that a significant proportion of women in rural India approached unqualified medical practitioners and sought home remedies as their first source of healthcare. This lack of awareness about the importance of healthcare and available resources is further compounded by sociocultural factors that disadvantage women in rural communities. According to a study by the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, health seeking behaviour is one of the key determinants of women's health and women in rural areas face additional barriers to accessing quality healthcare services.


The study also found that women in rural areas are more likely to be anaemic due to a lack of essential nutrients, which can have serious consequences for both the mother and her children. These findings indicate that addressing the awareness challenge in rural India is critical to improving the health outcomes of women and their families.


(c) Availability of right support is also a challenge; as one of the reasons for the affordability challenge in rural India for healthcare is the lack of healthcare facilities and providers in these areas. According to a study by the National Health Systems Resource Centre, there is a shortage of healthcare facilities and personnel in rural areas, leading to long distances and travel time for individuals to access care. Additionally, a study by the Public Health Foundation of India found that the availability of government healthcare facilities in rural areas is limited, with only 40% of the population having access to these facilities. This lack of access to healthcare facilities in rural areas exacerbates the affordability challenge, as individuals are often forced to seek care in more expensive private facilities. The lack of access to affordable healthcare in rural areas is a major barrier to the improvement of health outcomes in these populations.


Need for Technology Advancements


The past two years of living with COVID-19 has highlighted the weaknesses in our healthcare system, but it has also shown how technology can improve patient care, communication, and collaboration. As people have become more comfortable using technology in their everyday lives, they have also begun to adopt it in their healthcare needs. For example, a gynaecologist at a hospital now prioritizes overall health and well-being, not just delivering babies, with the help of technology. Collaboration with other medical specialists has become important for providing holistic care for women and newborns, as well as early health screenings and prevention, and technology has made it possible to connect with specialists across the country for specialized needs, including remote intensive care for newborns.


Recommendation


One potential solution to improve access to healthcare for rural women in India is through the use of technology-based interactive platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook. These platforms can provide a convenient and accessible way for women to receive education and information about their health, as well as connect with healthcare professionals for consultation and treatment. One way to accomplish this would be through the development of a chatbot that can provide personalized, interactive education and support on various topics related to women's health, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and mental health. Additionally, the chatbot can also be programmed to connect users with healthcare providers for remote consultations and appointments. This approach can serve as a cost-effective and low-barrier alternative to traditional healthcare services, especially for women living in remote, rural areas. Some of the features that can be included within the App and via external parties are as below.


App Features


Sending educational resources: You can use the messaging and chat features to send users educational resources, such as articles, videos, or interactive quizzes, on topics related to women's healthcare. This could be done on a regular basis, such as sending out a weekly newsletter with resources on different topics.


Answering questions: You can use the messaging and chat features to answer users' questions about women's healthcare. This could include general questions about specific health conditions or treatments, or more specific questions about an individual's personal health situation.


Scheduling consultations: You can use the messaging and chat features to schedule consultations with healthcare professionals for users. This could involve setting up a virtual appointment through the platform or providing users with information on how to schedule an in-person appointment.


Via External Parties


Third-party: Partnerships with government hospitals and clinics to send the target population with needed products; such as sanitary napkins, nutrients and protein needed during the pregnancy, iron and vital supplements.


Discounts for health care: Check-ups and tests for a reduced price are availed through this measure.


Classes for a cause: Education of women’s health and thereby minimising the stigma related to many health issues amongst the rural population through cloud-based messages and educational content.


Meet The Thought Leaders


Shreya Ravichandran was a consultant at McKinsey and Company, with a background in economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce. She loves problem-solving on social issues to make an impact on people's lives. She is currently working at The Antara Foundation as the Chief of staff to the founder, working on maternal and child health in rural India. She is also an avid musician and spends her free time experimenting different styles.



Mahmuda Narghees a business consultant within the UK immigration industry. She is a recent graduate of the MSc International Business Management program at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK and has been a part of Taqween Consultancy as a remote employee. With their expertise, she specializes in developing strategic business plans and go-to-market strategies that empower entrepreneurs to enter and succeed in the UK market.


She has extensive experience working across various industries, such as e-commerce, retail, B2B, B2C, emerging tech, and more. Through the GGI Impact MBA Scholar program, she was able to hone her skills in structured problem-solving and effective communication, allowing her to provide effective solutions to complex business issues. Key learning from the GGI Impact MBA Scholar program includes the art of consulting through structured problem-solving and communication from finding the root cause to recommending effective solutions.


Being a remote employee has given her the best of both worlds, allowing her to excel in the corporate role while also indulging in their passion for travel and experiencing new cultures. This unique combination of professional expertise and cultural understanding allows Narghees to bring a well-rounded perspective to the client's business needs."


If you are interested in applying to GGI's Impact Fellowship program, you can access our application link here.

 


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