By: Priyal Sakhuja
The great Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The true India is not to be found in its few cities, but in its seven hundred thousand villages. If the villages perish, India will perish too.” Sadly, if Gandhi were to see the current health care scenario in rural India right now, he would not be too pleased. And neither are the seventy percent of India’s population who reside in these rural areas.
Unsurprisingly, the prevalence of epilepsy in these rural areas is higher than that in urban areas due to the lack of resources and under-treatment in the villages of India. However, the underlying issues don’t revolve around the lack of accessible health care. Instead, the integral issues lie within the cultural restrictions that add a burden to already burdened villagers who must deal with the health as well as the social issues associated with epilepsy.
In some rural areas of India, people with epilepsy are thought to have “demons” within them. Attempts are made to exorcise these evil spirits by tying them to trees, beating them to release the spirits, cutting parts of their hair, or even starving them. One cannot help but stop and ask- Why is there still such a lack of knowledge in areas that need it the most? Why are people who are already struggling faced with even more struggles by the stigma of society? Why isn’t anything being done to change this situation?
Although much change is still needed in these areas, there is hope coming into the villages of India and that is “Hope on Wheels,” which is a mobile health care center that provides diagnosis, treatment, and most importantly, education about epilepsy in rural India. The pilot project focuses on rural Rajasthan, which will introduce a mobile health clinic vehicle equipped with diagnostic and treatment tools. The team of “Hope on Wheels’ includes clinical and technical experts as well as social workers who will collaborate with top city-based neurologists through a video conferencing facility.
Additionally, “Hope on Wheels” will provide patient, family, and community support through social work visits and follow-up consultations to regulate the treatment and identify any adverse effects. This program is moving one step towards altering the perception of epilepsy in rural India through the use of education and social workers. With continuous support and effort, “Hope on Wheels” hopes to reach more than 50, 000 patients and caregivers in Rajasthan.
Gandhi’s words resonate even today. Let’s not forget that the heart of India lies in its villages, and more importantly in its people. “Hope on Wheels” is just one step closer towards reaching the roots of India but it doesn’t end here.
Dutta, Nirmalya. “What ails India’s Healthcare System?” The Health Site. August 18, 2012. Online. <http://health.india.com/diseases-conditions/what-ails-indias-healthcare-system>
Rizvi, Safia. “Epilepsy Care Rolls Into Rural India.” UCB. October 7, 2015. Online. <http://www.ucb.com/magazine/article/Epilepsy-care-rolls-into-rural-India>