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Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Multispecialty Medical Camp – August 23, 2009: Perspectives

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

IMG_0334Yesterday’s medical camp was truly a testament to the power of unity and commitment to a cause. Everything, from planning for sufficient tables and chairs to acquiring the appropriate drugs to making sure the doctors were comfortable, happened only because of the dedication and sincerity of Sangam India’s volunteers.

This camp, being the first health-related event in MGR Nagar, was held to high expectations and high standards. Residents of the slum have been requesting health-related assistance, so the camp was also timely. We were honored to have the presence of highly esteemed doctors that we hold in very high regard. In the pediatrics department, we had Dr. Julius Scott, Dr. Vilvanathan, Dr. Mullai Vasanthan, and Dr. Latha. Anthropometry (height, weight, head circumference, and other measurements) were done by our volunteers.  Internal medicine was handled by Dr. Emmanuel Bhaskar, with reinforcements provided by anesthesiologist Dr. Usha J. and postgraduates Dr. Tripthi Sugumar and Dr. Prithwijit Bannerjee. Dermatologist Dr. Renita Rajan and gynecologist Dr. Anbumalar also contributed their services. Special thanks to psychiatrist Dr. Sherab for coming all the way from Vellore for our camp.

pharmdocsOver 150 patients were seen at the camp, which ran from 10 AM to about 1230 PM. Several cases needing close follow up, including congenital heart defects and blockage of the nasolacrimal duct were identified by the pediatricians as well as the internists. We will be following  up with these patients and ensuring that they receive the care they need.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Canstop for providing us with a screen for our gynecology cases and to Paadhai for helping us arrange the camp. We also sincerely thank Mr. Yusuf, Dr. John Samuel and Dr. Renita Rajan for providing us with drugs for the camp. Most of all, we would like to thank the doctors and our volunteers. It is truly inspiring to see how beautifully everyone was able to work together for the sake of a cause greater than any of us. Many of the volunteers present were inspired by the thoroughness, kindness, and patience that each of the doctors displayed towards the patients.

Please let us know if you are interested in participating in any future camps. We are looking forward to conducting ophthalmology and ENT camps in the near future and any support or assistance you can provide is always welcome. And as always thank you to our donors and our supporters for giving us the boost that we need, ensuring that the work can go on.


From the Organizer: Medical Camp, August 23rd 2009

Monday, August 24th, 2009

A few thoughts from Vandhana, who organized yesterday’s camp:

We just successfully finished our first medical camp in MGR Nagar in association with another NGO, Paathai. It was amazing to know that we helped more than one hundred underprivileged people in such a large way. The camp was a huge success. Special thanks to all our fellow volunteers and doctors. We had representatives from Paediatrics, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gyneacology, Dermatology and Psychiatry at this camp. Thanks as well to Mr. Yusuf and Drs. John Samuel and Renita for donating drugs. Of course, we could’t have pulled it off without the help of the counselor and residents of MGR Nagar. We were shcoekd to find some severely ill people for whom we had to appoint referral visits.

Overall, I feel elated at the thought of being part of an organization dedicated to the betterment of humankind. This camp has made Sangam India yearn more to work for the greater good of humanity.

Vandhana Sundharam
Health/Health Education Coordinator

Photographs from Today’s Medical Camp

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Today we completed our Multispeciality Medical Camp and all agreed it was a wonderful success – better than we could have expected.

Upcoming posts will describe the day in detail, but before proceeding any further, we should stop here and thank all of our doctors, who volunteered their time and came with immense goodwill, and our volunteers, who put in extraordinary work in the planning and execution of the camp.

Some of the pictures from the medical camp have been uploaded, and more will be uploaded tomorrow.  For now, here’s a selection of the pictures, the rest of which are featured in our gallery.

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Updates at Sangam India

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

A few updates to share today about work that has been going on recently:

  • Roofing project: this project has gotten to a start, we are excited to say.  Over the last week, members of Sangam India have been going to the MGR Nagar slum with a team of engineers to plan out a roofing projects. Two visits were made and on the second visit, the engineers began taking measurements that will be needed in order to come up with a plan.  Hopefully we’ll have more info about this in a future post.
  • Educational Programme: The Educational Team came out today with a group of volunteers and spent some time with the children in an Independence Day-themed day mean to inspire civic values and national pride.  More on this in an upcoming post, with pictures as well!
  • Health Camp: The health camp has been scheduled for this upcoming weekend. More information will be made here as it is available.


Friday, July 17th, 2009

Hi, everybody, this is Gautam writing. I’ve been put in charge of the survey, and with regards to that, I’ve been cobbling one together over the last week or so. There are two purposes for this survey: the more obvious reason of data collection and incorporating that into future work we do in MGR Nagar, but additionally, we are looking to forge lasting bonds between ourselves and the inhabitants. Hence, I’ve tried to keep the survey as short as possible and have cut a lot of questions that were too difficult (and we’ve had to get rid of maternal health almost entirely…that’s something that we’ll do in the future). It should take around 15 minutes to do. We’re hoping to reach MGR Nagar at around 1700, and leave at around 1600. I’m going to be holding onto the Sangam India phone, so if there are any problems whilst taking the survey, then please give me a call.

We’re still not entirely sure on the numbers of volunteers that will be available, but if you have a few hours to spare, then please, PLEASE come down. I know that this isn’t particularly exciting work and there isn’t the direct feel-good factor that you get when helping at the camps but this work is just as important as it gives us a direction to work in over the coming months and years.

I’m going to do a quick breakdown of the survey, and its sections. Here it is:

We’re going to use census data to make things less confusing for you surveyor-folks. Each survey will have the occupants and a few details of theirs on the front page, to make it easier for me to decode the data.

Household – this is a section that you can fill by combination of simply observing the house (to see the quality of the walls, floor and roof) as well as asking a few simple questions. They’re fairly simple so all you need to do is circle the appropriate answer. It deals with their habitat and habits around it, including the bathroom status and water treatment/storage.

Environment – This deals with water sources for different activities and the source of lighting. It gives us an idea of how the average inhabitants of MGR Nagar are living, what they know about water treatment, and more importantly, what they don’t.

Hygiene – Basic hygiene questions about their washing habits. This is one of the most important segments, since rectifying any unsanitary habits is one of the ways that we can see a reduction in infection rates.

Health – A quick screening survey, just to find out what the prevalence of a few common conditions is like. Additionally, there are a couple of questions on access (where they’ve been and where they would go…both of these are important as we can identify which centres have earned the trust of the slum inhabitants). Rounding out this section are 2 questions: one is on smoking, and the other is on alcohol. In truth, we’re not expecting much statistical data from this, but we think that if anyone is likely to answer ‘yes’ to the alcohol question in particular, then it signifies the trust that we’re building between the people and ourselves. Still, it’s worth including.

Nutrition – Just to find out, roughly, what kind of society we’re looking at. Do they get enough fruits and vegetables? Are they eating enough in terms of calories? Does anyone take any supplements? An estimated 95% of the women will have anaemia. With that in mind…iron tablets, maybe?

Education – Finally, just a few quick questions on the adults’ level of education and whether they’d like to expand on that. Also, a quick note about the kids’ education level. This section is there since we’re trying to judge whether vocational programmes need to be put in place.

That’s about it. I’ll be filling in the front of the forms between 9pm tonight and tomorrow, so I hope you guys understood some of what was said above. I hope to see you tomorrow! Toodle pip!

Initiatives: Hygiene and Sanitation

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

an excerpt from our upcoming website
written by Katie Bush

Problem Statement
Throughout history, the mass movement of people into urban areas has resulted in increased risk to public health. Slums in urban areas are often defined as having low quality drinking water, poor sanitation systems, and little to no household hygiene, all of which are conditions that threaten public health. Poor living conditions in slums are directly related to sanitation. Nearly 64% of slum residences in Chennai are defined as ‘permanent-nature’ slum dwellings, the rest are merely temporary settings1. Additionally, 67% of slum residents live in single room houses. The semi-permanent and condensed nature of living conditions magnify the adverse health effects.

One of the largest challenges to public health in these slum areas is access to potable water; only 26% of the slum population has access to safe drinking water. Hand pumps supply 42% of the population with their drinking water and 31% have access via a tap. In addition, 33% do not have access to latrines. The lack of latrines leads to open air defecation, leading to disease and malnutrition due to parasitic and bacterial infections. Efforts to improve hygiene and sanitation must aim to reduce transmission of infectious agents. It is the goal of this group to investigate the effects of hygiene and health education in these slum areas on human health by carrying out surveys in the communities we adopt. Using this data, we will be able to develop more effective methods of solving sanitation and hygiene problems.

Importance of Sanitation on Community Development
Microbial contamination leading to diarrheal disease is one of the leading causes of death and disease worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 2 million children die of diarrheal disease each year. An even higher number of people fall ill due to poor hygiene and sanitation. Those suffering from diarrheal disease are also likely to suffer from malnutrition, impaired physical growth, and reduced immune response. High illness rates result in missed days of work and school for both the sick and those caring for them. Improving hygiene and sanitation will not only improve health, it may also lead to other social benefits such as improved school attendance, less time gathering drinking water, and less time caring for the sick.

Our Approach
Our approach will focus on hygiene education in the home. It is our hope that as people become more aware of the dangers associated with poor hygiene, a shift in behavior will result in improved health. We will also work with the community to promote a clean environment. It is our goal to help the community acquire the means to improve their water supply and garbage removal. There will also be targeted interventions aimed at promoting sanitation infrastructure.

Our Work So Far
Through the course of our educational programme, various lessons on health and hygiene were taught; emphasizing the importance of simple activities such has hand washing and personal cleanliness to children as a first line measure to reduce the transmission of disease. Children were taught, then asked to reinforce their lessons by demonstrating what they had learned to the group and by washing their hands under supervision. During our women’s camp we were able to give women in the slum one-on-one instruction regarding reproductive hygiene. Additionally, dental hygiene was taught at our dental camp.

Plans for the Future
Future work will largely be dictated by the community we seek to help and their specific needs. Health education will always be a main focus of our efforts, regardless of the location and condition of our next project.

To finish the rest of this article, check back on our upcoming website, releasing July 2009.

  1. Chandramouli, Dr C (2003). Slums In Chennai: A Profile. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Environment and Health, Chennai, India, 15-17 December, 2003. Chennai: Department of Geography, University of Madras and Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University.

Initiatives: Healthcare and Nutrition

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

an excerpt from our upcoming website
written by Sriram Ramgopal

Healthcare: Problem Statement
Healthcare – and the lack of easy access to it – prevents people from upward social and economic growth in India. The lack of healthcare stems from two important issues:

The first issue is a lack of access. Healthcare facilities in India are difficult to access. Government hospitals, though technically free, are so burdened by a massive population of patients and a deficiency of qualified medical staff that they simply cannot cope with the load. They have a perpetual shortage of essential medicines and are simply unable to do essential diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Corruption in such hospitals also plays its role in limiting access to ordinary people. Thus, people are unable to utilize these hospitals in their time of need. “Experts and the general public perceive public hospitals as inefficient, dirty, unhygienic and their staff as rude, negligent and callous,” writes Ratna Magotra, for the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics1. However, while ‘free’ government hospitals are unusable, impoverished people in India simply cannot afford to go to more expensive private hospitals, where the costs of treatment are exponentially higher than what they might earn in a year – or even in several years. The long-term costs of treating chronic ailments such as diabetes and hypertension put a heavy, often unbearable burden on people with a limited income.

The second issue preventing access to healthcare is a lack of knowledge, awareness, and initiative and an ignorance about the importance of health. Such a statement is not intended to allocate blame to these people. However, they are unaware that treatment is available for many conditions, that it is affordable and easy to obtain. They do not know that many diseases – such as debilitating complications of diabetes – can be prevented by simple and inexpensive means. Perhaps more ominously, we have found in our short work here at Ramavaram that patients are unwilling to receive treatment, even treatment that they perceive as necessary and that our group has been willing to sponsor. This can be attributed to a cynical attitude towards the healthcare system and the importance of good health in their lives.

The economic and social toll that lack of proper healthcare takes in such urban communities cannot be calculated in any straightforward way. Children suffer in school because of undiagnosed refractive problems. Adults suffer from bone aches due to osteoarthritis. Acute trauma such as fractures from road traffic accidents, when improperly treated, prevents adults from being economically productive in the future. Death tolls in children due to untreated diarrheal and respiratory diseases are also distressingly high. The tragedy is that many of these people suffer from conditions that can be treated easily – and often inexpensively.

The Importance of Healthcare in Community Rehabilitation
We have chosen to work on heath care for several reasons. Most of our members, being students and workers in the healthcare field, grasp the vital importance of health in the chain of human suffering and poverty; we share a keen sense of empathy for their pain. Our belief is that ethically, the choice of providing health care when we have the power to do so is a matter that requires little deliberation. We see it as a clear responsibility with few shades of gray to complicate the issue. Helping those who are sick serves additional advantages as well. It allows people to get to work and to school and to become productive – thus breaking a chain in the disease-poverty-disease cycle. Socially, it shows our solidarity with those who need help and creates a strong bond with them based on our concern for their welfare. This leads to trust, and over time, it allows us to work with these people in other arenas as well, such as education and vocational training.

Our philosophy of health care is that of ‘self care.’ When someone is sick, we believe that the immediate course of action is to help them get better. However, this is not the end-all of health care as it does not provide a long term solution for health problems that are an inevitable part of life. People from impoverished backgrounds lack access to healthcare for a number of reasons. But armed with information and support, they can make the right healthcare choices and play a positive, active role in their health.

Our Approach to Health Care
Our approach to health care has a number of facets. As the axiom says, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” and this certainly applies to underprivileged communities. Health education is an important part of this process. Teaching children and adults alike the importance of basic hygiene and sanitation is critical to combating common infectious diseases. Preventing children from using drugs forestalls long term, chronic health problems ranging from alcoholism to lung cancer. Informing women about contraception and its importance decreases complications associated with excessive and frequent childbirths. Thus, health education is the cornerstone to our approach in underdeveloped communities. It is the cheapest and the most effective way to avert disease and debility.

Prevention, though better than a cure, by no means replaces it. It is also important to develop ways to treat patients who are in need of curative therapy. We plan on increasing access to health care by two means – bringing health care to those afflicted with minor conditions, and for more serious conditions, taking them to centers for definitive treatment. Bringing health care to the community involves running health camps and bringing qualified medical professionals to help the residents deal with their medical complaints. By eliminating the cost of treatment and bringing doctors to their own neighborhoods, we can surpass many of the barriers that they face in getting treatment. By individually assisting the patients, we help them overcome their fear of what seems to them as a complicated and menacing system and get them the treatment they deserve as human beings.

To finish the rest of this article, check back on our upcoming website, releasing June 2009.

  1. Magotra, Ratna. “Revitalising public health care.” Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. 1995. Forum for Medical Ethics Society. 14 May 2009 <>.

Handwashing Review at Ramavaram

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Another clip from last Saturday’s (April 4th, 2009) visit to Ramavaram. In this visit, we went over the technique of handwashing with the children of Ramavaram that we first taught on the first day of our educational programme.

Toothbrushing Lessons at Ramavaram

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A small movie clip from our trip on April 4th, 2009. One of the girls at Ramavaram, just taught by Vandhana, explains to the rest of the group how to brush our teeth. After this, we gave each of the kids a toothbrush to help reinforce the lesson.

Saturday evening at Ramavaram

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Saturday saw the activities of the third visit to Ramavaram, as a part of the educational program for children. Crayons to colour what’s on their mind, and cricket to bring alive the playing field-the kids kept us on our toes for all the two hours that we spent with them.

The objective was to get some creative juices flowing. So the kids were asked to draw what they wanted to be when they grew up. From policemen to flowers and mountains, the colouring activity brought out some very fascinating ideas of job opportunities. Vandana, Mounica and Saikiran seemed extremely happy with the results of their respective groups.

Cricket and hyperactive young lads kept Safwan and Arjun on their toes. Meanwhile there was another train of kids who were enjoying their games with Basera, Pavitra, Samar, Apoorva, Krishnaja , Amrutha and Pranusha (who joined us for the first time). Then there were photo sessions with Aneesha and some camera-savy kids.

This was followed by a round of discussion with the kids, where they came forward and let us know what they had learned from the activities of the day. A review of hygiene lessons quickly tailed by a briefing on oral hygiene (by Vandana), brought the visit to an end.

Toothbrushes for all the kids who made the activity a success, brought smiles to everyone who came together for day three of the educational program.