The first step as a health intern in the Sheney community of Naddi was to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. Now, after completing health surveys with the women in the community and hearing stories of pain, pregnancies, operations, and ambulances, I see a depth to the community that is not as transparent from the outside – discomforts and confusions beneath the appearance of relative wealth, a need for better health care.
The rattling coughs and rotting teeth were clear from my first visit to Sheney, especially among the poorer families of the community. But the health survey revealed many more problems. Most of the women suffer from stomach pain, often unexplained, at times leading to emergency hospital visits. Others complain of continuous headaches, back pain, or problems with their teeth. One man suffers from lingering injuries after a bear attack. He was bit in the leg, shoulder, head, and jaw. Another man has neck pain and problems swallowing after a tree fell on him during work – and although this stops him from working like he used to, it doesn’t stop him from drinking too much. A few of the women are sterilized, unaware of non-invasive methods of birth control. And another woman keeps returning to the hospital for surgery to remove the “water” from behind her knee. A nine-year-old girl has kidney stones they can’t get rid of. And one little boy with undiagnosed developmental issues has problems hearing, seeing, and understanding. His mother is sure he will grow out of it. I could go on…
On top of it all, no one in the community seeks proper health care. Regular doctor visits for “check-ups”, or anything we may consider preventative care, is unheard of. A dentist is sought only when a tooth needs to be removed, and a gynecologist is almost never seen, even during pregnancy. When an injury or illness strikes, families rush to the hospital, (some slower than others, careful not to miss too much work or school). Then, families spend huge amounts on pills and painkillers from the pharmacy. If an operation is required, bills can lead to eternal debt.
When I first arrived in Naddi, I was not immediately inspired to help the community. The needs are not screaming on the surface like they are in the migrant camps, the stereotypical Indian poverty. Yet there are so many ways the Naddi community needs help and I see that now. I suppose we all need help though, especially when it comes to health – discomfort, pain, confusion, and unhappiness. But it is hard to recognize this until we really get to know a person or a community, until we gain the trust to talk to them about these personal problems and build enough of a relationship to care.
With the first comprehensive health needs assessment of Sheney complete, the next step is to research and plan projects to better educate the community on health. The first health education projects will focus on preventative health care, medical facilities in the area and how to access them, and holistic/ayurvedic treatments. At the ReStore grand opening this month, I created a poster on ten elements of a healthy life in order to make people aware of the increased presence of Rural HealthCARE in Naddi and the health education projects on the horizon.
United States of America
Rural HealthCARE Project Manager
March – July 2013