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India Calling: NRI Doctors respond to rural India’s distress

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By Meghna

 

The rural health care in India has always been in a sorry state. The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) did four studies  in rural Alamarathupatti, Samiyarpatti and Pillayar Natham in the state of Tamil Nadu and another in the village of Karakhadi, in the state of Gujarat some years ago, and found that not only were the people living in rural areas ignorant about common lifestyle disorders like diabetes and hypertension, but they were also deprived of access to quality health care and knowledge of basic sanitation practices.

AAPI, essentially a body of Indian doctors settled in the US started the project ‘SEVAK’ in 2010 on a pilot basis in Karakhadi village, and over the years, it’s reported that it has covered all villages within the 26 districts of the state.

Dubbed as an extremely successful rural health care model, SEVAK is the brainchild of Dr. Thakor Patel, AAPI member and a specialist in nephrology and internal medicine. The concept of SEVAK is based on the Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC) in the US Navy. Dr. Thakor Patel was associated with the US Navy for 23 years and during this period he has also served as the director of IDC.

The IDCs are high school graduates who undergo a training of one year during which they are trained in providing primary health care to Marine Corps units or Navy Ships. In addition to this, they are also responsible for managing disasters, ensuring preventive care of sailors along with conducting environmental checks such as humidity, temperature and sanitation.

The sevaks are responsible for providing holistic healthcare to their respective villages.

“The design of this project was based on one person per village per district of Gujarat for a total of 26 individuals — that is sevaks. Upon selection, these individuals underwent health training in Vadodara,” Dr. Patel said. Following this, they were sent back to their villages to discharge their duties.

The project is looking at a possible expansion into 100 villages. The project was started in Gujarat with the support of the state government and Local partners like the Bharatiya Seva Samaj (which is overseeing the project), and the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara.

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A person should have at least passed 12th standard in order to become a sevak. A Sevak should be a permanent resident of his/her village. Women who will remain in their villages for a long period are eligible to become a sevak.

A sevak is responsible for the complete basic health care of his/her village. This includes conducting basic health checkups and screening of diseases like diabetes and hypertension. They will also be responsible for monitoring high-risk population for various diseases and patients with chronic disease who are on treatment.

Not just this, but the task of educating the village people about healthy lifestyle and preventive care is also to be dispensed by the sevak.

Sevaks are an important link in the chain of healthcare. They connect the rural folk to the health care experts.

“Special cases are referred to city hospitals and in some cases sevaks accompany the patient. The cost is borne by the project,” explains Dr. Patel.

One of the benchmarks by which the performance of the sevaks is measured is the sanitation of the villages. One of the variables is the number of toilets in the villages and since the inception of the project, the number of toilets in the sevak villages have increased.

Monitoring the Sevak project

“The state of Gujarat was divided into four zones: North, south, central and west, with a coordinator for each. The base education requirement for the coordinator was a bachelor’s degree. As the coordinator their job is to go to each village once a month and go over the work done by the local sevak, collect the data in an excel file, and email it to me. The data is then sent to Dr. Ranjita Misra*, who compiles the information into statistics. In addition, Dr. Padmini Balagopal* creates the lifestyle modification education program for the sevak,” Dr. Patel explains.

After the success of the first leg of Sevak project in Gujarat, the AAPI in collaboration with Dr Rahul Jindal, a transplant surgeon in Washington, New York-based philanthropist, George Subraj have launched the programme in rural areas of Guyana also.

rediff
credits: rediff.com

To develop in cohesion, as a nation, we need to cater to the rural population more. The rural-urban dichotomy is a serious issue and steps need to be undertaken to bring the rural India at par with its urban counterpart. Sevak project is an initiative which attempts to take steps towards this issue. More projects on similar lines need to be brought about to revolutionize Indian society.

 

(* both the doctors are members of the AAPI)

 

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Why U.S. Women’s Soccer Dominates on World Stage while Men’s Game Continues to Falter

The U.S. men haven’t come close to the women’s success

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Mexico's Rodolfo Pizarro, right, controls the ball against U.S. forward Paul Arriola during the Gold Cup final in Chicago, July 7, 2019. Mexico won 1-0. VOA

In the 28 years since winning the very first Women’s World Cup, the U.S. women’s soccer team has dominated the game on the global stage, taking home four Women’s World Cups in all, including the 2019 title captured this month in a 2-0 victory over The Netherlands.

The U.S. men haven’t come close to the women’s success. Not only have the men never won a World Cup, they even failed to qualify for the most recent men’s World Cup in 2018.

To deduce why U.S. women’s soccer dominates on the world stage while the men’s game continues to falter, you might just have to go back to the beginning, to the time when future world-class players — female and male — first start showing athletic promise.

“Soccer was never really been part of the national lexicon. It’s always been kind of this underground, kind of foreign game,” says Eileen Narcotta-Welp, an assistant professor of sport management at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. “Not only has it been a foreign game, but it’s been seen as a less masculine state. So if a child has to choose, or their parents have to choose, which sport a child is going to go into, ultimately it’s going to be basketball, baseball, [or] football.”

US, Women, Soccer
U.S. player Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the World Cup final match against The Netherlands outside Lyon, France, July 7, 2019. VOA

The world in general views soccer — or “football” as it is called practically everywhere in the world except the United States — as an extremely male-oriented, overtly masculine game. However, in the United States, more traditional U.S. sports like baseball, basketball, and American football are more likely to be viewed as “macho” activities.

So while little American boys were pursuing other sports, a combination of events laid the foundation for the popularity of girls’ soccer in the U.S.

One of them was the 1972 passage of the federal law known as Title IX, which prohibits federally funded educational institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex. The law applies to high school and college athletics.

Many schools quickly embraced soccer for women because they could field up to 35 players per team, a sizable number that helped close the gender gap in their athletic programs.

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Additionally, the success of the U.S. women’s soccer team has captured the imagination of young female athletes-in-the-making. Over time, they’ve watched and admired soccer icons of yester-year, like Brandi Chastain, and current superstars like Meghan Rapinoe, and are inspired to emulate them and their success.

Aside from cultural and societal expectations, there are practical financial considerations that help explain why America’s best female athletes might choose to pursue soccer while top male athletes look to basketball, baseball or football.

“Those are also three sports that you can make a living off of,” Narcotta-Welp points out. “If you are a kid that is extremely talented, extremely athletic, and you are a boy…you know that professionally, if you want to play professional sports and succeed, that they’re pretty much three areas in which you’re gonna be able to succeed.”

US, Women, Soccer
In the 28 years since winning the very first Women’s World Cup, the U.S. women’s soccer team has dominated the game on the global stage, taking home four Women’s World Cups. Pixabay

The most talented female athletes have even less choice. Their opportunities to play professionally and make a living out of it basically come down to soccer or basketball.

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“They’re not getting huge exorbitant salaries, but it is kind of the one pathway for young women to play professionally,” Narcotta-Welp says. “For men, you have so many other options that are much more lucrative and probably more culturally acceptable in terms of the idea of masculinity that it would make sense for them to be steered in one of those three directions versus soccer.” (VOA)