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Ensuring good health in India's villages

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The Essar Foundation actively seeks to improve the health and happiness of people in communities close to its operations

May 11, 2012 Bookmark and Share  
One of the key indicators used by experts from government and other agencies working in the area of healthcare is the infant mortality rate (IMR). In India, the IMR is estimated to be around 60 for every 1,000 live births a year, with sharp variations in different regions and states. In Kerala, for instance, it is at 14/1,000, whereas in states such as Uttar Pradesh (83/1,000) and Odisha (96/1,000) it is quite high, according to the UNICEF.

Essar actively seeks to improve the health and happiness of people in communities close to its operations. Typically, the rural areas near Essar facilities tend to have low accessibility and thus very limited availability of healthcare services. The Essar Foundation has committed significant resources to support both preventive and curative healthcare in such communities, where disease and periodic epidemics are prevalent.

The Foundation promotes awareness, enables access and increases the availability of health services in remote locations, besides working closely with public healthcare providers to enhance capacity-building. The Foundation also funds the provision of doctors and paramedics, builds new health centers, provides critical equipment such as ambulances, and manages mobile health services across its locations.

The 3E framework

The Essar Foundation seeks to positively impact the lives of all who come in contact with the company's operations. The 3E framework is a way of focusing efforts and resources. Within that framework – covering Entrepreneurship, Environment and Education – six long-standing programs exist. They focus on education, health, women's empowerment, livelihood, infrastructure and environment.

The Essar Foundation provides healthcare services to more than 100,000 families, besides offering specialized services such as eye and dental care to more than 250,000 people.

Ensuring good health among infants is an important aspect of the Foundation's health program. Preventive by nature, Essar's infant health program encompasses a number of initiatives that will ensure the well-being of infants, thus laying the foundation for good health in the coming years. Some of the noteworthy initiatives undertaken by the Essar Foundation include awareness drives for vaccinations and de-worming, health and weight check-ups, post-natal care for young mothers, and healthy baby competitions.

A team of doctors is regularly invited to address local communities regarding the importance of not just good health in children, but also the family as a whole. They also highlight the various government health schemes available to the local population. About 350,000 people, living in areas where Essar has its presence, have gained from the Foundation's health program.

The programs are usually held once every quarter at all the site locations. In many rural areas, one of the main reasons for poor health among infants is inaccessibility to nearby healthcare facilities. However, with the introduction of Essar's infant health program in remote regions, many have been able to avail of the free medical facilities, which are provided not only for infants but families as well, within their vicinity.

Also, by providing incentives along with medical aid, the program is gaining popularity in an increasing number of rural areas.

The Foundation's healthy baby contests have also been able to generate a good response from village folk in each of the locations where they have been organized. One such noteworthy example is the healthy baby competition that was organized in Vadinar village (Gujarat) on August 12, 2011. As many as 70 children participated in the competition. Several criteria were involved in the selection of winners, including the immunization record of the child. At the end of the competition, five babies were awarded prizes. 

As part of its health program, Essar Foundation strives to provide door-to door health facilities in rural areas, in the form of mobile medical units. Each unit is equipped with skilled doctors and paramedics, and also provides referral transport for secondary and tertiary treatment. Till date, four mobile medical units have been launched in four states – Gujarat, West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. They have so far reached out to over 100,000 people.

Essar Foundation's school health program seeks to improve the overall health and reduce the incidence of infections among children, by organizing a number of activities and awareness camps. As part of its efforts to promote physical education, the Foundation develops school playgrounds and provides for sports equipment. Provisions are also made to provide clean drinking water in schools and medical kits to manage common ailments. The program has been implemented in 75 Essar-supported schools across the country.

Through initiatives like these, Essar is ensuring that not only does the current rural population around its facilities have access to quality healthcare, but also that the coming generations are well equipped to live healthier.

Working with other agencies
The Essar Foundation, in its endeavor to provide affordable and easily accessible healthcare to rural areas, collaborates with numerous government agencies and healthcare institutions. It has so far collaborated with:

  • Department of Health, Government of Jharkhand, to organize a family planning camp
  • HelpAge India for the introduction of Mobile Medical Units
  • Maruti Club to organize a blood donation camp in Paradip, Odisha
  • Vivekananda Hospital to organize a health camp on the occasion of World Health Day in Durgapur, West Bengal

The family planning camp organized in Chandwa, Jharkhand, from January 23 to 29, 2012, was a major initiative undertaken as part of the Foundation's infant health program. The week-long camp was organized in association with the Department of Health, Government of Jharkhand, and focused on the successful completion of the National Programme on Family Planning.

Essar teamed up with 32 health workers and their medical teams from the health department to help create awareness among the community of project villages. Medical procedures were also offered, and 79 villagers availed the service. Men and women who availed of the medical services also received financial incentives from the Department of Health, while Essar provided saris for the women and blankets for the men.

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