Gadchiroli’s Guardians: How Dr Bang’s SEARCH Defeated Infant Mortality?
The true measure of a human being is how he treats others who can do him no good. Such is the life of all those social activists who spend their entire life working voluntary towards causes close to their hearts. One such visionary social reformer & activist is Dr Abhay Bang & his wife Dr Rani Bang who have volunteered to donate their sweat & dedicated their medical careers to the benefit of the Gadchiroli communities. Since his early days, Dr Bang believed in the Gandhian way of life & his all thoughts were focused on providing better medical facilities to the poor & impoverished in India.
A graduate of Nagpur University, Dr Abhay had joined PGIMER Chandigarh for his post-graduation. However seeing the wastage of funds by the government in training medical practitioners who left the country for plum jobs outside India, Dr Abhay was disheartened. He left the course mid-way & decided to form Medico Friend Circle – an organization to engage medical practitioners to work for the poor in rural India.
Dr Abhay returned to his alma mater to continue his PG studies where he met Dr Rani who was training to become a practicing gynecologist. Despite the initial family resistance, after becoming his wife, Dr Rani too whole heartedly supported Dr Bang’s commitment to the poor & decided to work with Dr Bang in the remote villages of Wardha.
At Wardha, the Bangs joined the family NGO Chetna Vikas & started working in various villages. However they soon realized that their clinician approach was insufficient to effectively handle the medical problems faced by these impoverished communities at large. They needed better research & analysis skills to implement public health models which could help the community at large.
The couple thus left for post graduate studies at one of the top public health universities in the world – John Hopkins. Very soon they acquired the required skillsets & returned to their motherland to help their people. They decided to continue their voluntary work in one of the most backward provinces then- the Gadchiroli – where most of the population was tribal & largely depended on the forests for their primitive existence.
These lands were gripped with severely high infant mortality ratios because of lack of medical aid. Their intensive on-field research showed that the infant mortality could be tackled by home-based neonatal care support systems. They devised a strategy to implement their project by training the Dai-maas or the traditional birthing maids in the villages as well as medical workers.
The volunteers were trained to deliver the child, check its vital signs, proper post-natal care & quick disease identification & intervention. This proved especially useful for cases with pneumonia which were rampant in these regions & led to most infant deaths.
Dr Rani bang was instrumental in solving the huge burden of women gynecological problems faced in rural settings. She trained the dais not just in proper post-birth care but also to diagnose & treat other gynecological problems of these women.
Within a period of 5-8 years via extensive efforts of the doctor couple & the community at large, infant mortality in these affected areas was brought down to only 33%.
The health care workers are now trained to provide preventive treatment for iron or calcium deficiencies too. Their organization SEARCH i.e the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health has become a role model for all social volunteers in the public health area & their strategic “Gadchiroli Model” is studied by researchers all over the world.
These two doctors have shown the world of medical professionals what can be achieved by donating your sweat for improving public health. Can all city doctors & nurses please follow Dr Bang’s footsteps & decide to volunteer an hour daily for the medical treatment of the needy?
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