After building trust and community relations with the migrants in Rajol over the past 3 months, we have now gained the confidence to talk to them about more sensitive topics, such as health. When we first began working in the migrant camp, we feared that they would resist health interventions. Through interactions with other migrants from Rajasthan, our Director learned that the migrants did not trust the hospitals or allopathic medicine in general. Although traditional medicine can be effective at times, we were dismayed to hear that they refused vaccinations, instead boiling the hair of certain animals to treat or prevent disease.
Fortunately however, our recent health survey in Rajol only revealed good news – a willingness of the migrants to seek and accept health care. The migrants in Rajol do not practice any traditional medicine, and therefore feel very dependent on the chemist (pharmacist) down the road. Whether for headaches, work injuries, or disease, the migrants accept all drugs recommended by the chemist without question, paying him their hard earned money for ineffective and temporary solutions. We advised them to go the government hospital instead, where they could see a doctor, receive a diagnosis, and get prescriptions for any necessary medicines. Although they said they did not trust the government hospital – claiming that the only good hospitals were ones you had to pay money for, the private ones – they agreed to visit the public hospital with me this week.
A few days ago, I went to the government hospital in Dharamshala with the village leader, his wife, and their son, Rajesh, an adorable 9 year-old boy with Down’s syndrome. After a very long day waiting for and speaking with doctors, we left the hospital feeling successful – diagnostic tests scheduled for next week. We are unsure what solutions we will find for Rajesh at this hospital, but this is a great first step in their pursuit for health care. Through this visit and subsequent visits, I am hoping to show the migrants that the government hospitals are accessible, affordable, and trustworthy. And we are hoping that this will result in continued use of hospital services, instead of blind obedience to a money-hungry chemist. In the end, our influence as MCE and health interns could result in a healthier, more financially empowered community.