Saturday, 12 April 2014

Attending a Vaccination Workshop

A few weeks ago John, the final member of my original Punjab team, left to go home to Canada. After 8 months spent working in the migrant camps on health and the young men’s association he was going back to the great white north. Despite his excitement, he had one big regret. For the past few months he had been establishing contacts with the District Immunization Officer from our area, in hopes of having a workshop with him to learn about vaccination outreach programs in India. In addition to having a workshop, we would be gaining a valuable resource, who could introduce us to many other National Rural Health Mission employees. Despite all of his work, a last minute cancellation meant that John was unable to attend the workshop, but luckily we were able to have it even without him.

The workshop began with some background information on some of the health issues that India has faced in recent years. Things like malaria, malnutrition, polio have all affected the country and have featured heavily in national and international news about the country. The goal of the National Rural Health Mission has been to decrease the prevalence of such communicable diseases, as well as to increase access of all people in rural areas to healthcare services. One of the primary ways that the NRHM does this is through Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers and Community Health Workers (CHWs). Both of these groups provide some basic health needs to rural communities, as well as encouraging communities to seek healthcare services from government hospitals, rather than eschewing it for home medicines or expensive private hospitals. These workers are the ones who have most direct access to communities, and thus are an important bridge when trying to prevent disease through things like vaccines.

In Hoshiarpur District alone there are (at least) 26,000 children under 5 who are low income. These are the children being targeted by the government hospitals to be vaccinated for things like polio. India has had an incredibly effective polio vaccination program, so successful that polio has been recently declared eradicated in India. One of the main takeaway’s that I had from this workshop, though, was that India needed to remain vigilant about polio, and all diseases preventable by vaccination. Migration across borders from countries without extensive vaccination programs like India, are the most likely culprits behind any possible polio infections in the future. That is why every few months the government holds migrant polio vaccination days. These are days where health workers go around to the most vulnerable populations and vaccinate all children under five. Being one of the only links between the migrants and the government hospitals, this program is incredibly important and will hopefully continue to be successful in the future.

Despite my sadness that John was unable t witness the fruits of his labor, the vaccination workshop was an incredibly informative ones. In the workshop we were able to learn more than I ever could have by browsing the internet. We hope that we will be able to do more such workshops in the future, but for now we have gained a valuable resource and a lot of incredibly valuable knowledge.

Dr Bagga's vaccination workshop
Poster in the civil hospital
District Immunization officer Dr Bagga showing us the case where they store vaccinations

Alexanne Neff, USA
Public Health Project Manager / Punjab Cluster Supervisor

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