Health Outreach Program
The health outreach program was begun in July 2007 to extend and complement the work of the education outreach program. We have concentrated our efforts on the three key areas of education, advocacy and empowerment while providing any necessary medical treatment. In this way, we are treating the root causes of poverty (discrimination, exclusion and inequality) without neglecting the immediate and sometimes life-threatening symptoms (poor health outcomes). With the opening of our new Health Education and Resource Center in September 2007 (shared with the educational outreach program), we are able to provide more direct and immediate services, including health education classes and space for regular health "camps" bringing in experts in a variety of medical fields for free screenings and treatment.
Our health outreach program is centered around the Waghri community of Yerwada, a community which is systematically excluded from most opportunities for external aid and thus remains well below every poverty line - with households of 10 to 12 people subsisting on less than $1 a day. Many of these households are home to children in our outreach program, and thus we are attempting to support the education of children in the slum by removing many of the household pressures which would keep them out of the classroom and on the street.
Education is certainly important for providing essential knowledge on the causes, effects and remedies to commonly seen ailments. Classroom topics include hygiene, nutrition, communicable diseases, sexual and reproductive health and first aid and are reinforced with community-designed and -led campaigns to institute positive changes. Education coupled with the provision of basic necessities remains our most important method for preventing serious morbidity and mortality in the future.
The goal of our advocacy is the development of a working public health system in and around Yerwada, which will consist of all government-provided services and will treat all patients with dignity and respect, thus creating an environment as free from barriers as possible for the utilization of medical services. This involves the integration of national and state programs, non-governmental organizations and healthcare providers. In this area, we will work directly with government and non-governmental programs on behalf of those living in the busti, ensuring that promises made by the Indian government for the provision of public goods are honored.
We constantly strive towards a more equal society, both in terms of distribution of wealth (and health outcomes) and in terms of discrimination against marginalized groups - those of low caste, women, religious minorities, the disabled and others. This activity will take the form of workshops, counseling, advocacy (as above), information (about small business opportunities, for example) and of course our commitment to treat each person with respect and compassion regardless of gender, race, religion, place of origin, health status, language spoken, caste, income, or any other aspect.
In addition to attacking many of the root causes of disease and poverty, we place an emphasis on the actual provision of health services through our health outreach program - acting as a DOTS provider, screening and treating participants for tuberculosis, HIV, malnutrition, etc. We also hope to institute a regular medical volunteer program, bringing in Indian and foreign volunteer medical personnel for free treatment at clinic weeks, about once a month.