The mobile clinic: access to health care for all !

FORRAD (Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development)

In India, the Foundation for Rural Recovery and Development (FORRAD), with backing from the Michelin Corporate Foundation, has set up a mobile unit for people lacking easy access to healthcare.

Since it was set up in 2017, the clinic has covered a lot of ground. Travelling the roads of the Thiravallur district in India’s state of Tamil Nadu, the clinic and its ever-enterprising medical team have given over 30,000 consultations and treated over 7,000 new patients. Its action was especially decisive during the Covid-19 pandemic when private clinics and hospital outpatients departments were closed. Operating these last 5 years, the clinic has used screening apparatus to carry out basic diagnoses and treat patients suffering from acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and anemia.

Taking preventive action – Over and above the provision of healthcare, the mobile clinic has applied its experience to investigate the underlying causes of the prevailing diseases observed locally and work with all interested parties on initiatives to improve community health in the region. With this aim in mind, the clinic has organized information, awareness and training sessions on key issues such as women’s health, care for the elderly, mental health, nutrition and attention to environmental factors such as water quality and farming practices. Since 2019, 45 health information sessions have been organized in 19 villages with over 1,400 attendees. Coupled with advice given to patients during clinical consultations, these sessions have improved healthcare over the long term and allayed credulity and fear. The result is that patient compliance has improved from 50% to 80%, and this no longer just applies on the purely medical side but also involves changes to diet and lifestyle.

Health impact in the region – Within the population covered, FORRAD’s team has observed a very significant reduction in morbidity among the patients treated and an improvement in general health. This is especially true for elderly people without access to a healthcare professional. The reason is that treatment is free and the clinic easy to get to. This action in the field also helps better understand and analyze the causes of certain illnesses. For example, in the population of the little village of Sirunai, FORRAD has identified houseflies as the cause of an increase in gastroenteritis and managed to bring down the number of cases simply by fumigating. FORRAD can also act on the cultural factors behind diseases like diabetes and hypertension and so give appropriate advice in line with local customs, regarding diet for example. The advantage of the mobile clinic is its close proximity to the local community which considers it as its own, adopts its ideas and suggestions and relies on it for information. These ties make it possible to deal with sensitive issues such as mental health which in India is still taboo.

A better management of prevailing diseases – The health information meetings organized have enabled discussion of a variety of subjects like diabetes and hypertension in relation to their prevention, treatment and complications. And was also the opportunity to talk about anemia, dengue fever, nutrition, common skin complaints, clean water and, in recent months, mental health. The people attending these meetings in person or who have received the information indirectly through the community have greater awareness of the behaviors that prevent these maladies from occurring and of the common symptoms that help identify them.

Photos ©FORRAD

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