by: Shaleen Vira
Maslow described in his hierarchy of needs that humans strive for more basic and fundamental needs before progressing to higher pursuits. Note that self actualization is at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, representing the final and ultimate human goal. So, in order to journey towards self-actualization, basic physiological needs such as food, water, and basic health necessities must be taken care of. Indeed, providing health care access to the population is an important humanitarian goal. Furthermore, global health is an area in which public-private partnership in these rapidly growing emerging markets have much potential. This paper investigates medical camps, an innovative model that has successfully been used to provide free medical care to the poor in rural India.
How can society provide health care to the world’s population, most of whom reside in impoverished areas? Historically, this question has been largely unanswered, with medical needs compounding annually as population rapidly escalates. Looking forward, the 21st century will see the world’s population reach seven billion, over half of whom survive on incomes under $1 a day. Indeed, rampant poverty and lack of health care access are inextricably linked: the poor cannot afford medical treatment and are thus unable to work and earn a living, which in turn propagates poverty. Attempts to break this vicious cycle have been of little avail: The Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s)1 are failing to reduce world poverty and the World Bank/IMF projects have success rates of as low as 17%. In this manner, large government institutions are incapable of providing basic health services to the people. Innovative means to increase health care access for the underprivileged are highly warranted.
Specifically, two problems exist that are the barriers to universal health care access. First, the infrastructure of health care facilities, equipment, supplies, and drugs are lacking in rural areas. Second, expert medical staff is unavailable in these rural areas. No organization desires to invest in rural health infrastructure because of low returns and no highly trained medical personnel wishes to provide services in such desolate areas because of low wages. In this study, the medical camp is demonstrated as a model to surmount these twin obstacles to greater health access. Furthermore, the Shree Survodaya Trust, a social entrepreneurial nonprofit organization, is delineated as a case study.
Social entrepreneurship is a burgeoning field that employs multi-disciplinary thinking to solving problems of societal relevance.2 Specifically, tools and teachings from many fields are combined to develop novel solutions that are both sustainable and pattern breaking. Social entrepreneurship offers innovative possibilities to attacking engrained social problems like inadequate health services that have proven to be elusive to past efforts.
The Shree BidadaSarvodaya Trust is one of the most effective social entrepreneurial organizations in the South Asian region. The trust, through generous philanthropy, has built a 14 building state of the art medical campus in Bidada, Kutch, India which provides year-round medical care, surgery, and rehabilitation therapy free of charge. Figure 2 shows a urological surgery being performed. The trust, started in 1974, has grown from a single room eye care station to a 22-specialty campus. Moreover, for twenty days every January, the trust conducts a medical camp in which doctors, paramedical/therapy staff, and volunteers from the United States travel to its campus and provide medical treatment free of charge. Many of these participants are of Indian heritage and take this opportunity to remember and give back to their familial roots.
The Shree BidadaSarvodaya Trust has thus developed a novel method to address both barriers to greater health care access. By engaging in philanthropic efforts and by receiving supplies and drugs from Direct Relief International (a foundation based in Las of the art facility in a rural village that rivals facilities in Mumbai and Delhi. And, by appealing to Americans of Indian origin and others in western world to travel to Kutch for 20 days every January to volunteer their expertise, the trust provides the expert staff to treat the patients. This double-pronged approach has made it possible for the trust to provide medical care to 30,000 patients every year solely during its medical camp. The trust also dedicates one of its buildings to the housing and treatment of religious monks who require special medical needs. In total, over 2 million have been treated since the trust’s inception. Indeed, the trust’s social entrepreneurial drive using a combination of such disparate fields of nonprofit management, economic development, clinical medicine, charity work, and health administration has made such success possible.
The scope and composition of the trust’s patients is tremendous. In order to inform the vast population in Kutch of the medical camp, the trust advertises its services and travels to 900 villages in and around Kutch during the regular year to diagnose and screen potential patients.3 Furthermore, patients travel from all over the Middle East and South Asia including Dubai, Muskat, Pakistan, Mumbai, and South India to receive desperately needed treatments, surgeries, and rehab care.4 The trust does not discriminate based on caste or religion and whole-heartedly accepts patients of all walks of life.
The Shree BidadaSurvodaya Trust was instrumental in alleviating the medical distress of the 2000 Bhuj earthquake. Two hours after the earthquake hit, 600 patients arrived at the camp in need of emergency care and were accepted for on-the-spot treatment. Over the 5-month aftermath of the earthquake, the trust was able to treat 30,000 patients, give shelter to 200,000, and build 1,400 houses using the resources of its medical hospital and campus. It was due to this calamity that the trust decided to build an 18,000 square foot rehabilitation center to provide life-long care to the earthquake victims. Since then, the Bidada Hospital has served victims of Mumbai bomb blast, draught, malaria epidemics, cyclones, and other disasters that afflict the South Asian region. Indeed, disaster relief is one of the trust’s core competencies. The Bidada hospital is pending approval from University of Gujarat and will be receiving accreditation from various US organizations.
The medical camp has proven to be a highly successful social entrepreneurial model in providing an infrastructure for the United States to systematically aid the rural areas in the South Asian and Middle East region. The medical camp model is currently being scaled, with new camps being in such diverse areas of India as Palanpur, Rajkot, Surat, Amdehabad, and Andhra Pradesh. Indeed, this model has the potential to expand globally and can be scaled to serve millions worldwide.
Many of the 2 million patients that have been treated by the trust have been able to return to work and provide earnings to support their families. See Figure 7B of a volunteer treating a stroke patient who is regaining arm and hand control.
This fundamental success in economic development has given “new lives” to those who would have otherwise been lost and have lifted many out of poverty. Although far away from reaching all who need medical care, the trust has taken the first steps towards providing health care access to mankind.