“He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything” – Arabic proverb
India has made rapid strides in the health sector since independence. However, various eye opening data from NFHS clearly indicate that access to healthcare still remains a challenge.
While the health statistics of rural India continue to be poor, the health status and access to health for the poor in urban slum dwellers has surfaced to be equally deplorable. Despite accounting for 1/4th of the country’s poor population, urban areas have less than 4% of government primary health care facilities.
Urban slum dwellers suffer from adverse health conditions owing to mainly two reasons –first the lack of education and thus lack of awareness; and second the unwillingness to lose a day’s wage in order to reach the nearest medical facility. Health for underprivileged, which is a desperate need, thus remains unaddressed. As a result, cases of poor women health, malnourishment in children and deaths from preventable diseases from such areas are always high.
The neglect in even the simplest preventive medical treatment usually leads to a more serious ailment and eventually into deaths. The need of the hour is thus a two pronged approach – first to bring quality health care services to doorsteps of the needy and second to promote healthcare awareness and contemporary health care seeking behavior among the underprivileged.
In such a scenario a mobile health care services delivery system is the most practical mechanism. And in subscription to this view, Smile Foundation has initiated the Smile on Wheels programme. This is a unique mobile hospital programme that seeks to address problems of mobility, accessibility and availability of primary health care with a special focus on children and women, in urban slums and remote rural areas.
The Smile on Wheels programme has so far provided healthcare services to more than 10 lakh children and families.