This post is categorized both under "images of public health" and as part of the "change-makers" series. While I did not plan to post another in the "change-maker" series so soon, it seemed inappropriate to let this important day pass without this post.
The women in the above image are volunteer village health workers trained through the Jamkhed Model at the Comprehensive Rural Health Project in India. This project was one of only a handful of community health projects specifically highlighted at Alma Ata 30 years ago today (September 12, 1978). The lessons learned from this project, and several others, guided the writers of the final Alma Ata Declaration, a declaration that is still hailed today and is being celebrated and re-energized worldwide and with a special issue of the Lancet.
Mabelle and Raj Arole were physicians who graduated from the Vellore Christian Medical College in 1959 and who then went to work at a rural missions hospital. Disappointed by the lack of impact they were making in peoples' health through their hospital work, they decided, in 1970, to start a public health program. Looking for an area to build, they were invited to Jamkhed in the state of Maharashtra, India where they settled and began building their center.
From a modest center drilling water wells for nearby villages, they later began village health surveys and health education. Later, they expanded into many other areas of development such as promoting reforestation and improving environmental conditions. Over a period of 25 years, 250,000 men and women who previously had been marginalized had been empowered to change and improve their lives and the health of their villages. Infant mortality dropped from 175 per 1000 births to 18 per 1000 births during that time period.
Mabelle and Raj Arole deserve much more text than I am providing here and I urge you to visit the site of the Comprehensive Rural Health Project to learn more about the model and what they have done.
As I mentioned earlier, their work and the lessons learned guided the development of the Alma Ata Declaration. Later, in the early 1980's, officials from WHO and UNICEF visited Jamkhed to learn how to adapt the model to other parts of the world. In 1989, Drs Mabelle and Raj were invited as visiting professors to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. And, in 1995, Dr. Mabelle became a senior advisor for UNICEF. Dr. Mabelle passed away in 1999.
In 2005, Dr. Raj Arole received the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice, and his work and the exemplary work of the Comprehensive Rural Health Project continues today. As stated in their vision, "We envision communities where families are healthy and enjoy fulfilling lives....We are called to facilitate and empower the poor and marginalized and enable them to achieve their full potential through a value-based approach with equity and justice."
See here for much more: http://www.jamkhed.org/index.htm