Value Lessons from the Grassroots

Value Lessons from the Grassroots 

By Aditi Khatri, LGT Impact Fellow for The Antara Foundation, India

In November 2023, I had the opportunity to visit a Community Health Centre (CHC) in central India, where various challenges hinder the availability of adequate healthcare services. The region is grappled with accessibility issues, deeply rooted traditional beliefs and customs regarding childbirth and pregnancy, and a general lack of awareness among beneficiaries and their families regarding health services and the support provided by the government. During my visit, I encountered a distressing scene that left a lasting impact on me. It involved a new mother who was frantic over the health of her three-day-old baby, who appeared to be in critical condition, struggling to breathe and turning blue by the passing minute. What was even more heartbreaking to see was that newborn was covered in unfamiliar substances, indicating treatment by a traditional healer (dai and the bhagats as they locally called) before being brought to a health facility when the situation worsened due to delayed medical intervention. Despite the efforts of Block Medical Officer (BMO) at the CHC, the infant’s condition deteriorated, necessitating a referral to a district hospital which was 1.5 hour away. Tragically, the infant did not survive.

These incidents highlight the critical gaps in the healthcare system, demonstrating missed opportunities to save precious lives. In India, thousands of women and infants could be saved from maternal and child morbidity and mortality through timely and quality care. It was in response to such pressing needs that The Antara Foundation (TAF) was established, aiming to strengthen the public health system which enables an ecosystem of timely and quality healthcare services till the last mile and to the most underserved communities of India.

TAF’s initiatives focus on the crucial “golden 1000 days” period, spanning from conception to a child’s second birthday, during which both mother and child are vulnerable to health risks. The interventions are designed to enhance the skills of frontline workers (FLWs) and nurse staff to deliver quality care but at the same time empower women and men within the community to seek the care they deserve and are entitled to receive. As an Associate-Strategy within the TAF ecosystem under the LGT VP Impact fellowship program, I initially anticipated a role centered on partnership development and organizational growth. However, my journey with TAF surpassed these expectations, exposing me to grassroots realities, learning through examples and real-life settings about the public health sector, and igniting a profound passion for maternal and child health issues within me.

At the heart of TAF’s vision lies the belief that the best solutions to complex problems emerge from those intimately familiar with the challenges they aim to address. Since its inception in 2014, TAF has expanded its reach to over 5700+ villages across three Indian states, impacting the lives of 370,000+ pregnant and lactating women and over 650,000+ children. Guided by a dedicated team of professionals, TAF strives to ensure that every mother and child receives an equal opportunity for a healthy start in life.

During my field visits, I witnessed the tangible impact of TAF’s interventions. From empowering 20,000+ frontline workers and 500+ staff nurses through tailored training sessions to supporting 4000+ government-led programs like Home-based Newborn Care (HBNC), TAF is leading the way in facilitating the last-mile healthcare delivery. It was incredibly rewarding to see the positive transformation in the attitudes and capabilities of frontline workers, who expressed gratitude for the knowledge and confidence gained through TAF’s support.

Got clicked with one of the Front-line worker known as Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) right outside a beneficiary house after delivering a Home-based Newborn Care (HBNC) session.

But it wasn’t just these individual stories that inspired me; it was the collective efforts of communities, healthcare workers, and TAF working hand in hand to create lasting change. From empowering frontline workers with knowledge and skills to fostering partnerships with local stakeholders, TAF’s approach is rooted in collaboration and community empowerment.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my time in the field was the importance of continuous learning and adaptation. In the face of complex healthcare challenges, TAF remains committed to listening to the needs of communities, learning from their experiences, and adapting its strategies accordingly. This spirit of flexibility and resilience is what drives meaningful progress and ensures that no one is left behind.

As I return from my field visit, I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism for the future. The journey towards maternal and child health equity is not without its challenges, but it is also filled with moments of hope, connection, and possibility. Through collective action and unwavering commitment, we can create a world where every mother and child have the opportunity to thrive.

These experiences have taught me that resilience, courage, taking risks, recognizing our true wealth and fostering innovations have the potential to not only impact an individual’s life but many. Learning is an ongoing journey, and it flourishes when approached with humility and a willingness not only to acquire new knowledge but also to let go of old ones.

In essence, TAF’s journey symbolizes a beacon of hope for communities grappling with healthcare disparities, demonstrating the power of collaborative efforts in achieving maternal and child health equity even in the most remote and vulnerable regions and I’m thrilled to join this dedicated group of development sector professionals who are deeply committed to serving a noble cause!

One of the information boards in a Health and Wellness Centers (HWC) somewhere in rural Central India miles away from urbanization which was created in support by The Antara Foundation.

A training session in progress where Community Health Officer (CHO) cadre is being trained on various thematic areas within the umbrella of Maternal Child Health Nutrition (MCHN).

A sector meeting in progress where Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA)- the one in pink sarees and ASHA supervisor (AS) – the one in brown saree are being trained right under the shade of a tree. Only in India 🙂

AAA meeting where all three frontline workers i.e. ASHA (pink saree) , Anganwadi Worker (AWW) ( red and golden print saree) and Auxiliary Nurse midwife (ANM) ( green suit and lab coat) get together to integrate their data as all three of them have a dedicated diary where they do their daily reporting and recording to maximize their reach to the beneficiary on-time. The Antara Foundation team usually facilitates these meetings to streamline the entire process.

Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is a proven, evidence-based method to enhance the health and survival of premature and low-birthweight infants. A KMC corner was established in a CHC after The Antara Foundation’s intervention and is being set-up in many more CHCs to enhance this practice of KMC among the underserved population.

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