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Boat Clinics in Assam extend health care to the rural poor

Floating clinics bring medical expertise, education, supplies, immunizations, and data collection to underserved villages in India

The Strategic Foresight Group writes,

"Boat clinics in Assam in the North East of India have slowly been making inroads into communities that have thus far remained out of reach of healthcare workers due to their geographic location. The boat clinics are run by the Centre for North-East Studies and Policy Research (C-NES) and work in villages along the Brahmaputra River which are well removed from the rest of the state. The boat clinics have been operational since 2005 in partnership with the Assam state government and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Doctors on the boat clinics work in tandem with local community health workers assigned by the NRHM. Primarily, doctors treat common illnesses but also aim to provide the residents of the villages with basic information on hygiene. The doctors on board also provide vaccines, immunisation and basic ante-natal care. Thus far, the boat clinics have served over 300,000 people in the last five years in Assam."

Implications

"If the boat clinics function consistently and continue to expand their area of coverage, the following results could be seen in the future:

- Increased access to healthcare for rural and geographically isolated communities.
- Immunization rates of the state will increase in the future. In the earlier part of the decade, Assam had one of the lowest immunization rates in the country. Recent improvements have put its immunization rate at 59% in 2010 as against the national average of 60%. However, rural immunization rates still remain lower than the urban areas, as well as the national average.
- Maternal mortality rate will decrease. As of 2010, Assam has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Social pressures prevent women giving birth in hospitals. In many parts of the state, the lack of access is exacerbated in communities that live far away from the mainland. However, state programmes that offer cash incentives to women who give birth in hospitals, have had some effect on decreasing the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR). In the future, as more women have ante-natal care as a result of the boat clinics, as well as have greater knowledge of state programmes through the boat clinics, they are more likely to give birth in hospitals, thereby reducing the state’s overall MMR."

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Sources:

The Strategic Foresight Group, Nov 2010, page 6: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG_July2010.pdf#page=6

Centre for Northeast Studies and Policy Research.

Dhar, Aarti. ‘Boat clinics offer ray of hope in Assam’. The Hindu. 15 August 2009: http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article3253.ece

‘The ships of hope’. Assam Tribune. 30 August 2009: http://www.assamtribune.com/aug3009/sunday.html

‘Boat Clinics’. National Rural Health Mission: http://www.nrhmassam.in/boatclinic.php

‘Assam records highest maternal mortality rate in the country’. The Hindu. 5 March 2010: http://www.thehindu.com/health/policy-and-issues/article183147.ece

‘Assam Health Indicators’. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare: http://mohfw.nic.in/nrhm/state%20files/assam.htm#hp