200548 Role of Community Health Workers in providing water and health in the Thar Desert, India

Monday, November 9, 2009

Prakash Tyagi, MD , Head Office, GRAVIS, Jodhpur, India
The Thar Desert in India is among the most underdeveloped regions in world. Impacted by chronic droughts, Thar is impoverished and lacks basic amenities including water storage facilities and healthcare. Low level of health awareness, widespread myths on health issues and scarce availability of healthcare contribute to poor health status and lead to health problems including malnutrition, infections and chronic diseases and high prevalence of water-borne diseases.

Founded in 1983, GRAVIS has been working actively to empower the rural community of Thar. GRAVIS addresses the needs of the region with an integrated approach and has a special focus on linking water conservation with public health perspectives. The organization has done extensive work on providing water security to over 50,000 households. In the sphere of healthcare, GRAVIS has set up a fully equipped hospital and has developed a cadre of 521 trained Community Health Workers (CHWs). The CHWs provide basic health services to rural community and act as health educators. CHWs orient the community about cleanliness of water storage structures, personal hygiene and sanitation and prevention of water-borne diseases. Wide range of educational materials and tools are used for awareness generation. A recent sample study found that the prevalence of water-borne diseases in the region has reduced by 30% over last 5 years. Further, the expenditure on accessing drinking water and availing healthcare have reduced by 60 % and 45%. Clean water and improved health are essential for the development of Thar Desert and CHWs have an important role to play.

Learning Objectives:
The session will share the water and health issues of the Thar Desert in India and role of CHWs in linking water and health. Suggestions for further steps will be of great value to the program in India.

Keywords: Water, Community Health Programs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been involved with this project for a long time in the capacity of the Director of the implementing organization.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.