During the Pune, India program, we were privileged to be able to see not only very urban and city Maternal and Child Health but rural as well. Coming from a very small rural community that is feeling the doctor shortage as much as the rest of the rural United States, I was able to use that perspective to shape my experience here in India. I learned that even though India and the United States are two vastly different nations (I think that goes without saying) the doctor shortage and the rural coverage problem is very much the same in both.
One statistic reads that as much as 70% of India lives in rural conditions (according to Dr. Dabak) and many of them are literate and unable to take care of themselves. On our rural visits, this was very apparent and easy to distinguish from the large private hospitals we had visited in the city. Two very distinct examples stick out in my mind. The first was a man who was apparently in a knife fight. He had injuries but they weren’t consistent with his story. His solution was to bride the doctor with an assortment of illegal drugs to try to get him to write a police report for him. The second was an eight year old girl who came in to get medicine for her younger brother who had some sort of upper respiratory tract infection. She stated that her mother was on drugs and couldn’t come herself. That is an example of a girl born a woman with no childhood.
From what the doctor told us, these two scenarios are very common in rural India where HIV and AIDS runs rampant, and the police can still largely be bribed to get what you want. Just walking around the rural also made me visualize what everyone is saying about poverty and overpopulation in India. Dr. Dabak put it best when he said: “India’s growth is not real growth, it is merely edema.” The problem in India is not that these people aren’t smart, because believe me, most of them are very bright, it is a lack of empowerment to change.
While our rural areas in Idaho are not as substantial as they are in India, the lack of doctors, facilities and transportation are similar in both aspects of healthcare between the two countries. Just getting to a nearby clinic can often defer patients, especially mothers and children, from seeking the help that they need. There have been substantial leaps forward in this aspect of healthcare especially in Rural India, but I think the whole world has a long way to go if we are going to have healthcare equality for all.