The Meghalaya government is trusting that an “innovative approach” in implementing the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM-ABHIM) will bear fruit.
The centrally sponsored scheme under the National Health Mission aims to strengthen the public health infrastructure across all levels and focuses on developing capacities of health systems and institutions to ensure that they are equipped to respond effectively to current and future pandemics and disasters.
The approach adopted by the state government involves empowering Village Health Councils (VHCs) and fostering a sense of ownership amongst communities, a press release stated today. The VHCs have been allocated sub-centre construction works instead of contractors, which enables them to take charge of their own health infrastructure projects.
The formation of VHCs across the state has been envisioned as a community institution that will aid in mobilising action on health and nutrition issues and serve as a critical link between the state health systems and community members. The VHC general body comprises male and female heads of all households while the executive committee is composed of 10-20 elected members from the village. ASHAs, Anganwadi workers and teachers are permanent members of the VHC.
The key roles of the VHCs are to generate demand for healthcare services, to create a sense of ownership by the community, to lead awareness campaigns, facilitate local problem-solving and implement health infrastructure projects. All new constructions are to be done through the VHCs under the guidance of the office of the District Medical and Health Officer (DMHO) with technical support from the Health Engineering Wing (HEW) and junior engineers.
Ramkumar S, NHM Meghalaya Mission Director, highlighted the benefits of involving the community in assessment, construction and maintenance, which promotes ownership, encourages public health service use, and fosters health-seeking behaviour amongst the people. It will also lead to improved institutional delivery rates and reduced maternal and infant mortality rates.
P Thongni, executive member of the Japung VHC, recalled a few of the challenges in the past where community members had to carry pregnant women on bamboo stretchers and walk for hours to reach a health facility. He stated that the sub-centre would eliminate the need for villagers to travel long distances for immunisations, vaccinations and especially for safe deliveries of babies.
During 2022-23, the creation of 75 new sub-centres was a goal under PM-ABHIM and executed by the respective VHCs. A team of engineers and community building associates under the Meghalaya Health Systems Strengthening Project (MHSSP) has been engaged to support the implementation process and SELCO Foundation has been engaged as a design partner for technical assistance in the build environment and design aspect of the construction of the health sub-centres.
“Agropather village has been deprived of healthcare facilities due to poor road connections and transportation, leaving our community with no option but to depend on traditional healers for medical needs,” said Prainter Momin, the headman of the North Garo Hills village. “The new sub-centre will play a crucial role in catering to cases such as complications during pregnancy, childbirth and overall health and wellbeing of the community. We hope that this new facility will be a lifesaver for our village and neighbouring villages.”
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