Medha Thokchom had resigned herself to the exhaustion, pain and frequent urination associated with diabetes. The family could no longer afford the diabetes medicine her husband traveled far to buy. She barely left her bed in Kokchai Maklakai village in northeastern India. At 46, Medha feared she would never see her daughters marry.
But a home visit by a primary health care team from the local Health and Wellness Center (HWC) brought technology-enabled health services to her door, a free supply of medicine and renewed hope for a pain-free future.
Thokchom is one of thousands benefiting from the Indian government’s mammoth initiative to bring affordable, quality health care closer to the communities that most need it, with care no more than 30 minutes away. Focused on “leaving no one behind,” the HWCs represent an accelerated push toward achieving universal health coverage, through an expanded primary health care package of 12 services.
The new client-centered services cover family planning; communicable and noncommunicable diseases; ophthalmic, geriatric and palliative care; emergency medical care; and screening and basic management of mental health ailments. The portfolio of services includes provision of free essential drugs and diagnostics.
To know that my illness is lifelong and I can get a free supply of medication for the rest of my life and that too so close to my home is very comforting. I have just begun to feel happy again.Medha Thokchum
Jhpiego, as the lead agency for USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), is assisting Indian government officials in 12 states, including Thokchom’s state of Manipur, to establish effective and efficient operations at the HWCs.
MCSP’s catalytic support has helped unlock local funding to make improvements, ranging from road repairs en route to an HWC to use of point-of-care diagnostics.
When the health team visited Thokchom at her hut, Vidyarani Asam performed a simple prick test and, using a glucometer, found the woman’s blood glucose to be dangerously high. The provider escorted Thokchom to the nearby HWC, just steps from her home. A teleconsultation with a medical officer led to a prescription, which Thokchom filled at the onsite pharmacy, free of cost.
Asam is among a new cadre of health care providers being prepared to run HWCs in India. Jhpiego has supported the establishment of 70 study centers, which have trained more than 2,200 midlevel health care providers like her.
The ultimate goal of India’s Ayushman Bharat initiative is to bring affordable, high-quality care closer to the communities and people who most need it. Thokchom represents its impact. The drug she received from the HWC, along with a locally curated diet chart and an exercise regimen, is helping control her diabetes and in turn uplifting the spirit of her entire family.
Thokchom’s transformation shows the power of primary health care and the impact it can have on an individual, family, community and country. India is witnessing this transformation every day.