Friday, September 21, 2012

Sargur: From A Global Health Scholar

There are six Cornell students staying in Saragur to complete our service projects; three of us in Global Health and three in ILR. We are living in a small building next to Vivekananda Memorial Hospital and eating our meals in the hospital canteen. Jen and I are currently in the beginning stages of our project, which focuses on developing educational videos for patients. Using iMovie software, we will be creating videos on a variety of health-related topics, including diabetes (specifically, self-administration of insulin), water and sanitation, and orthopedics. ILR Global Affairs Club at Cornell has donated both the recording and video equipment to the hospital so that videos can continue to be produced. In order to ensure the sustainability of this project, Jen and I will be training some hospital employees to use the equipment as we create the videos. We also want patients to be able to relate to the information presented in the videos so our mentor, Dr. Sridevi, is going to set up a time for us to talk with diabetic patients in the community. This will allow us to incorporate their perspectives into our videos. 

A Trip to the SVYM Sites!

Our first stop was the Vivkananda Memorial Hospital in Sargur. The facility is a secondary health center that has 40 beds. One of the focuses of the hospital is sanitation. It features a one of a kind “sanitation park” with many model toilets on display to demonstrate the affordability of toilet facilities. Next to the hospital is the Viveka School of Excellence, which is a primary school for children living in the area. Fun fact: The students going to Viveka School of Excellence are learning FOUR languages (Hindi, Kannada, Sanskrit, and English). Six students will be staying at working at these facilities.
Next we visited the primary health center in Kenchanahalli. This health center uses a combination of allopathic and Ayurvedic medicine to treat local communities which include many tribal villages. Two students will be working at this site on different projects concerning the Ayurveda and medicine allocation sectors of this health facility. The grounds were beautiful with many different natural medicines being grown directly in front of the front doors and the surrounding jungle atmosphere gave this site a unique and adventurous feel.

Last, we visited the Viveka Tribal Centre for Learning in Hosahalli. The school houses and facilitates for up to 400 tribal students each year. Classrooms for the youngest students are open to the outdoors to increase comfort and help transition students to the school setting. Two students will be working at this site.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kenchanahalli Project

After our two weeks together in Mysore, all seventeen of us split into different project sites. We are working at Kenchanahalli Vivekananda Memorial Hospital one of SVYM’s great health centers in Karnataka. The grounds lie between the forest itself and vast agricultural fields, a beautifully natural setting that gives us a peaceful feeling each time we look out our windows. The primary health center at Kenchanahalli features a balanced practice of allopathic care and traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurveda. The word Ayurveda itself means the "knowledge of life". This system of medicine is natural and holistic and dates back 5000 years to its original texts written in Sanskrit. As can be observed in the Viveka Memorial Hospital’s ayurvedic center, the maintenance of balance within the body is emphasized by way of oil and plant-based medicines and treatments
We have been lucky enough to observe many Ayurvedic treatments and learn from the doctors who are so willing to share all that they know with us. Each day we get a little bit more acquainted with the staff, the doctors, the patients, and the environment; going on walks to nearby villages, eating meals in the canteen all together and working each day in the office is allowing us to easily acclimate and grow to love it here, feeling more and more at home at Kenchanahalli.

-       Olivia, 2013, Adriana ,2014

My project is focused on an Ayurvedic approach to nutrition and disease. Working with Dr. Seetharam, Dr. Mohan, Dr. Dennis and Mr. Ranjith I am writing a standard operating procedure based on nutritional needs and sanitation requirements for the canteen. The most fascinating part of my project is to create a diet handbook based on Ayurveda, which outlines different body constitution dietary needs as well as diets based on disease treatments. I hope to truly understand the interplay of food and health in a developing and rural context by the time I am through and cannot wait to observe local communities eating and water habits in order to further my appreciation for nutritional care given at Kenchanahalli Hospital and contribute to the best of my ability to SVYM’s mission.

-       Olivia, 2013

My project here at Kenchanahalli is to create the standard operating procedures for ayurvedic treatments that are performed here. I also am also processing the prakruti, or body constitution, documents that the center has created over the past two years. It’s been amazing to learn about this alternative form of medicine as well as interact with the hospital staff who have so much to share.

-       Adriana, 2014

Antiquity and Modernization

Yesterday was our first day off since starting our project, and we were lucky enough to join Dr. Lisa’s group from Iowa and Louisiana on an adventurous day of cuisine and site seeing. We traveled to three different ancient temples outside of Mysore District, two dedicated to Hinduism and the last one to Jainism, two religions that exist within India. The Temples are so beautifully crafted with intricate figurines of Brahma, Shiva and many other gods in each crevice and scenes of elephants, beautiful flowers and artwork carved into the outer and inner walls. The ceilings echoed with the faint squeaking of bats flying around as the temple swami blessed every person when they walked in; just outside the temple doors lay busy streets filled with cars and smog. I felt truly blessed to be able to observe such an ancient culture and practice that is still going on today. When I think back on the past three weeks here, this juxtaposition of antiquity with modernization is a recurring theme. The people themselves have an air of old world values, culture and beliefs that is exuded through their actions and words as they speak with you, yet they are all talking on modern cell phones. I can only describe this experience as living history, and I have seen it nowhere more strongly in the world than in India. To me this ancient quality has been truly amazing to be immersed in, the ability to do so much with very little is revealed in all situations especially in the healthcare system we are working in. I hope to bring home with me a bit of old world culture and style to further my appreciation of everything I am lucky enough to be apart of as well as become a valuable citizen of the world. 

Global Health Projects

Some of the Global Health minors were given the opportunity to spend a day on VMH’s Mobile Health Unit. Each day, the Mobile travels to 10-12 different rural tribal communities. The medical team is made up of a few doctors, nurses, and social workers. The primary job of the Mobile is to provide free healthcare to people who would otherwise not have access.

Jen: I was amazed by the dedication of the medical staff. We were on the go starting at 8:30am and did not pull back into the hospital until 7:30pm. Many of the people receiving care were expecting mothers. Pregnant women brought booklets that were originally provided by the Mobile. These booklets were used to help keep track of the mother’s progress and also provided prenatal information for the women. Although many women take advantage of the free medical service, it was evident after visiting a few homes that there are still women not seeking proper prenatal care. For example, we found a woman who had recently given birth to premature twins and had not been evaluated by health professionals at any point during her pregnancy. My day on the Mobile was an awesome experience and provided great insight on some of the current issues faced by doctors practicing in rural settings.

Marion: The Mobile’s Saturday route traveled to sites where the government has provided the tribal people with “housing,” small concrete structures with a door and a window. Although I was also witness to plenty of pain and sickness, what stuck me the most while on the Mobile was the resiliency and sustainability of the people living in these villages. Despite having so little, they manage to provide for themselves with hardly any outside help. This is in stark contrast to the U.S., where people are incredibly dependent on a multitude of human and material resources, including healthcare. Similarly, I was very impressed by the Mobile Clinic and its doctors. They have limited resources, and yet they manage to serve a large number of people with a wide variety of health and health-related issues.

Olivia & Adriana: We were lucky enough to go on the mobile clinic ride on Friday with Dr. Mohan one of the doctors we work with everyday at Kenchanahalli. The experience was adventurous as soon as the van began moving, we entered the gates of the national reserve, international tiger reserve and one of the largest forests in India on the border of Karnataka and Kerala. Passing wild elephants, peacocks, herds of deer and swinging monkeys we finally made it to our first village. It was amazing to see the way tribal people still are living communally in modern times all taking care of one another and living together. At some villages people were lined up waiting, but at others there would be only one or two pregnant women hoping for checkups and good news from the doctors. One man we saw had cut open his hand pretty severely and the doctor feared the tendent may be damaged as well as the having an enormous risk for infection and asked him to come with us to the PHC to get stitches, and then man politely refused. It was quite a shock at first to hear someone refuse free medical attention that could potentially save his hand from being removed, but history, fear, ancient knowledge and tons of other factors that were apart of this tribal man’s decision to ignore medical advice were poured onto us. This experience has placed resource limited care into an entirely new setting that is reliant on cultural values and belief systems, which may have never entered our minds without such an eye opening in person account. This day on the mobile clinic was truly one of my favorite times here in India and has taught me so much about healthcare and medicine in a global and developing world context.