Wednesday, May 26, 2010

TB Camp Meets Quota

There's a health camp going on in Kalyanpura. The organizers want to meet you.

Manguji informed us, only to take off on his bike. It seemed odd that all of a sudden a health camp was underway without anyone having heard of it. We decided to go take a look.

On our way to Kalyanpura we encountered a jeep coming from the village. I recognized the ANM sitting in the back. A man introduced himself as Dr.Diwakar. He came from Bhilwara to hold this tuberculosis detection camp. What an inopportune time to hold a camp; everyone's at work! As if reading my mind Dr. Diwakar explained they were on their way to various NREGA worksites to inform the workers of the camp. Yesterday the ANM gave some men small vials. They were told to cough a sputum sample into the vial. Today, we're asking them to bring the vials back. By tomorrow, they should get a report showing either a positive or negative result for TB.

We drove on to the Kalyanpura anganwadi where the camp was being held. I didn't even know the camp was happening until yesterday evening, Tulsi Bai, an anganwadi worker, exclaimed. Maybe that's why we didn't see anyone returning samples during our hour and a half at the site. The lab technician confirmed that this was the first time a camp was taking place in the "TB Belt": Shreeji ka Kheda, Kalyanpura, Balapura, and Kharoliya Kheda. Once the jeep returned Dr. Diwakar shed light on why such a camp was happening. Every year we need to collect samples from at least 3% of patients throughout the Bhilwara district. This year our detection was less than 3% so the government sent us to the villages to meet the quota.

According to him the men diagnosed with TB were given medicines free of cost. But they take the meds for 1-2 months, feel better, and go back to work in the mines. He gave the example of a particular individual who had severe TB and needed hospital admission. He refused the hospital treatment worth thousands of rupees. The government gave him the chance but he didn't take it. What more can we do? I offered an explanation - even though the man was sick he felt obligated to provide for his family. If he were to stay in the hospital who would feed his wife and children? He didn't prioritize his health because his role as breadwinner mattered more. Additionally, lack of education limited his options for alternative sources of income. I was reminded of a pillar in AID's philosophy: interconnected problems have interconnected solutions.

Addressing health requires one to also tackle inadequacies in education. One can't depend on the government to simply provide. The common man must first demand what is rightfully his. Only then can those he elected potentially deliver.

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