July 23, 2020

Taking Health Care to India's Urban Poor

Javed is a tailor in Rafiq Nagar, one of Mumbai’s largest slums. But his neighbors know him best as an Americares health promoter, one who shares information about healthy habits and disease prevention and alerts his community to the arrival of Americares mobile health center, a van that delivers free health care.

Javed is one of 84 Americares health promoters, known in India as arogya mitra, which means whole health friend in Sanskrit. Javed volunteers as a health promoter because he knows how quality health care can change a life. His mother was ill for years because of diabetes. She’d been seeing a doctor, but only after she began visiting Americares mobile health center did her health improve. Americares medical staff helped her better understand diabetes, and she now manages the disease by taking her medication, eating healthful foods and, in her 80s, walking over a mile a day.

Mobile Health Van serves 133 communities every two weeks

Rafiq Nagar is one of 133 slum locations Americares eight mobile health centers visit each month. By late March, the program had shifted to telehealth, pharmacy services and community health education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program has been providing telehealth and prescription services. Last year, 84,000 patients received care at the health centers, and more than 70,000 people received health education from health educators and promoters like Javed. In 76 schools in Mumbai, 20,000 students a year learn the basics of health and hygiene in Americares programs and take those lessons home to their families.

Slum communities offer low-cost housing, but the environment puts people at risk for disease, and quality health care in Mumbai is often too expensive or difficult for the working poor to access. That’s why Javed gladly volunteers his time: It’s an expression of his hope and love for the people of Rafiq Nagar, his home.

Contributed by: Kathy Kukula, Americares.

Learn more about the Mobile Health Program in Indian Slums from Americares here.