About 800 million people in Indian live in the rural areas, out of which around 7.8 million babies are born with low birth weight (under 2.5 kg) each year resulting to almost 20% child mortality rate. 1 of 5 babies hardly makes it to the age of 5.
This is mainly due to lack of literacy, awareness, hygiene, poor accessibility from the hospital to the remote villages that result to lack of on time care. Families living on daily wages cannot afford to travel to the hospital for treatment frequently. These vulnerable babies need their basic vitals (body weight and temperature) checked on regular intervals and counselled to their mother’s accordingly to ensure their health progress.
ASHA workers (Accredited Social Health Activists) are women who also live in the rural community and have basic training regarding childcare and identifying other diseases based on symptoms and refer the patients to the local hospital. But they lack credibility, and know-how and usability to monitor certain tasks due to illiteracy.
Inspiration and Method
During my field research at Shinor village, in Gujarat State, India, I found out that the hospital that the local hospital was working on a ‘Low Birth Weight’ programme where the health worker monitored the babies discharged with low birth weight locally at the homes and measure its basic vitals accurately such as the body temperature, height and body weight. He counselled the mothers accordingly and referred to the hospital if it was necessary. His advices were very well received and had credibility among the community. He was called, ‘the doctor’.
After two years of monitoring the babies the child mortality rate came down from 20% to 5 % which accounts to about 450 babies lives. But a health worker cannot go with all the equipment’s into the remote areas all the time to monitoring all the low birth weight babies. Hence a grass root level approach was needed.
Hence I thought what if the ASHA workers would do what the health activist does to monitor the babies locally at the villages. This would not only make the job easy for the hospital but also increases the credibility of the ASHA’s working in the grass root level.
The ASHA concept is a simple yet rugged hand held device for the ASHA workers that help them to measure the basic vitals of the baby locally at their homes in the village. During her regular visit, the ASHA worker would use the personal baby blanket provided by the hospital for each baby’s family at the time of birth. This blanket has its own imprinted growth chart to keep a track of baby’s progress that acts as a personal document. Then the Asha measures the body temperature with the non-touch IR thermometer and marks the progress on the blanket with a permanent ink.
She then weighs the baby in its own personal blanket (that would avoid cross contamination) by suspending it from the hook of the device to get accurate results. She would advise the mother according to where the baby stands in the chart.
This device is powered by solar panels in the display that doesn’t need any recharging or battery replacement. This simple tool not only gives ASHA the credibility she deserves but also helps to save thousands of lives by providing on time care at the grass root level.
Thus the ASHA concept helps the ASHA workers to check the basic vitals of the baby on regular basis locally and help them track the baby’s progress in the easiest way. This gives credibility to the ASHA’s and reduces the child mortality rate.