Thursday, May 24, 2012

Public health system of India – an overview (focusing mainly on rural health system)

National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is the unique initiative of Govt. of India which encompasses all the National Health and Disease Control Programs (except AIDS and Non-Communicable Disease control programs) to provide operational synergy and additional financial, administrative and technical support to those programs. One of the key objectives of NRHM is to strengthen the primary healthcare services at the rural set ups and its referral linkages and decentralization of responsibilities of healthcare management upto the village level.
Village Health and Sanitation Committee (VHSC): A village around 1000 population has a Village Health & Sanitation Committee. The members of the committee are selected from the local villagers like community leaders, teachers, healthcare providers, community health workers and members of the local governance body named Panchayeti Raj Institution (PRI). VHSC is responsible to develop annual health action plan of the village, its implementation & monitoring and overall decision making on the health situation of the village. The committee receives funding support from NRHM on annual basis.
Community Health Workers:  Generally, a village with 1000 population should have the following community health workers:
ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) worker: Eligible female volunteer of the village is selected by VHSC of the village to be trained and function as ASHA Worker who is primarily responsible for door-to-door visit, health education, basic health services and linking the community people with the existing public health system through referrals and follow up. There should 1 ASHA worker for 1000 population as per the NRHM norm. NRHM has so far introduced nearly 1 million ASHA workers in the rural health system of India.
 AWW (Anganwadi Worker): AWW works at AWC as health cum education volunteers (Anganwadi Centre) which is the most peripheral rural unit of the Ministry of Women & Child Development under the scheme of Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme. The key role of AWW is to provide free nutritional supplementation to the children below 6 years and pregnant/lactating mothers, immunization services, ANC & PNC, referral services health education to the women and non-formal preschool education to children below 5 years. There should be 1 AWW per 1000 population. Today in India, about 2 million aanganwadi workers are reaching out to a population of 70 million women, children and sick people, helping them become and stay healthy.
Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA): They are traditional birth attendants in the villages who assist women to deliver at home. Govt. of India has decided to train theis cadre of community health workers to ensure positive outcome of deliveries conducted at home.
Sub-district/block level health services:  India has 640[1] administrative districts within its 28 states and 7 Union Territories and each district is divided into administrative divisions and divisions into several administrative blocks.
1)      Sub Health Centre or Sub Centre: For 5000 population of the block (5 – 6 villages), there is a sub-centre (SC)[2] which is manned by a Multi Purpose Worker/MPW – female or ANM or Auxiliary Nurse Midwife plus a Multi Purpose Worker/MPW – male. In the public sector, a Sub-health Centre is the most peripheral and first contact point between the primary health care system and the community. A Sub-centre provides interface with the community at the grass-root level, providing all the primary health care services. Of particular importance are the packages of services such as immunization, antenatal, natal and postnatal care, prevention of malnutrition and common childhood diseases, family planning services and counseling. They also provide elementary drugs for minor ailments such as ARI (Acute Respiratory Tract Infection), diarrhea, fever, worm infestation etc. and carryout community needs assessment. Besides the above, the government implements several national health and family welfare programs which again are delivered through these frontline workers like ANM and MPW.

2)      Primary Health Centre (PHC): For every 30,000 – 40,000 population[3] there is one PHC, which acts as a referral point of 4- 5 SCs (30 – 40 villages) and manned by 1-2 Medical Officers and 14/15 para-medical staff like Staff Nurses, Lady Health Visitors, Health Educators, Health Supervisors etc. It has facilities of basic institutional care including delivery with 4 – 6 beds, basic laboratory services and ambulance for referral services. PHCs are the end-point of primary health care.

3)      Community Health Centre or Community Care Centre (CHC/CCC): This is the referral point for 4 PHCs with specialized services, covering a catchment area of 100,000 population (100 villages). The specialized services include emergency medical/surgical/obstetric care, ambulance services for referral, institutional care (30 beds) and laboratory services. CHCs are the starting point of secondary healthcare.

4)      Sub-District/Sub-Divisional hospitals: These are 51 – 100 bedded hospitals to be located in the divisional headquarter of the district.

District health services: Every district is expected to have a district hospital linked with the public hospitals/health centres down below the district such as Sub-district/Sub-divisional hospitals, Community Health Centres, Primary Health Centers and Sub-centres. As per the information available, 609 districts in the country at present are having about 615 district hospitals. However, some of the medical college hospitals or a sub-divisional hospital is found to serve as a district hospital where a district hospital as such (particularly the newly created district has not been established. Few districts have also more than one district hospital. These hospitals are 100 – 200 bedded and generally equipped with specialist health and laboratory services. The District Hospitals are actually the end-point of secondary health care.

Tertiary healthcare: The tertiary healthcare referral points are located above district level namely State Hospitals, Regional Medical Centres, Medical Colleges and National level Medical Institutions.

[2] In hilly and difficult-to-reach area there is one SC for every 30,000 population
[3] In hilly and difficult-to-reach area there is one PHC for every 20,000 population

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