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Bridging The Last Mile In Rural Healthcare

Rural India suffers from inadequate and inaccessible primary healthcare services. There is a critical shortage of trained medical personnel, appropriate equipment and maintenance for the storage and handling of medicines and medical machines. The basic facilities needed for human development are also lacking in these areas, with poor transportation systems and unreliable water and electricity supply. The cultural beliefs in rural remote villages are also a challenge, along with the lack of awareness and education regarding medicines and treatment. Lastly, financial access and physical access to healthcare are major hindrances. 

In the healthcare supply chain, the last mile has proven to be the greatest challenge in terms of meeting the goal of access equality. Providing primary healthcare in these rural areas is paramount to the overall success of the health sector of the country. Further, primary healthcare in these areas is important for the overall success of the global health and humanitarian supply chains.

To handle these issues, innovations and an integrated approach combining technology, improved clinical protocols, and patient engagement while empowering nurses and paramedics at the last mile would play a major role. In this Social Entrepreneurship Conclave, we are looking at innovators in the field of rural healthcare who have designed comprehensive systems to facilitate last-mile healthcare delivery including but not limited to, treatment, supply of medicines, and emergency surgical equipment for day-to-day medical needs.

Achieving A Nutrition Secure India

India has fared well in the economic and human development indicators in the past decades. However, undernutrition among women and children remains to be a grave concern. Undernutrition causes high morbidity and mortality since the body cannot produce the required antibodies to fight against mild infections and absorb nutrients adequately.

According to the 5th round of NFHS, a country-wide survey conducted by M/o Health and Family Welfare and International Institute of Population Sciences, only 11.3% of children (aged 6-23 months) receive an adequate diet. Anemia among children aged 6-59 months has increased from 58.6% to 67.1%, and women aged 15-19 years have gone up from 54.1% to 59.1%. However, continued policy interventions such as POSHAN Abhiyaan have led to a decline in children's stunting, underweight, and immunization. Therefore, we observe that tackling undernutrition head-on can drastically improve the KPIs.

The onset of the Covid pandemic has impacted the population's nutritional status. It disrupted livelihoods making it difficult for vulnerable families to access and afford adequate food. Anganwadi Centres were shut down, and VHSND services were disturbed. Additionally, the situation demanded the services of health workers, which impacted the functioning of the nutrition programs.

Stakeholders need to adopt a collaborative and dynamic approach to strengthen the nutrition profile of India. Innovative solutions will go a long way in eliminating undernutrition among the population. 

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