India, the world’s 10th largest economy, has witnessed a decline in the incidence of poverty during the last few decades largely due to economic liberalization. But one-third of its population still remain below the poverty line subsisting on less than a dollar a day. With economic advancement has come new vulnerabilities, inequalities, and insecurities in all development areas, including health.
Research in the second half of the century established that poor are less entitled to public subsidies and more likely to financial shock owing to out of pocket expenditures on health.
The situation is understandably worse for regions like the Sundarbans in West Bengal, where poverty stricken islanders have to cope with adverse geo-climatic conditions. Against this backdrop the FHS India research initiative was launched with the guiding principle of “putting the poor first”.
FHS Phase 1
In the initial phase of FHS India, research was carried out to gain a systematic understanding of determinants and consequences of inequity in health, healthcare, healthcare utilization and healthcare financing. Towards the later part of the research period, FHS India focused on the Sundarbans, a chronically handicapped region of West Bengal.
For the first time, FHS India generated systematic evidence on burden of ill-health in the Sundarbans based on household surveys, chronic morbidities suffered by older adults, healthcare utilization, choice of providers, issues in access to healthcare amidst extreme geographical barriers and issues in maternal and child healthcare. Further, a preliminary understanding of the healthcare delivery mechanisms in the Sundarbans was also gathered through a systematic survey of public health facilities, semi/unskilled rural medical practitioners and charitable trusts.
One of the major focus areas of FHS I was to build up a partnership for research that will be successful in influencing health policy and service delivery mechanism in the state of West Bengal.
FHS Phase 2
Evidence-based research from the first phase identified a need for greater community exposure, learning and identification of key systemic gaps and mitigation strategies. Through audience friendly communication methods, technology use, health services provider training and a prompt, need-based support, in this phase FHS India will work to formulate a feasible and comprehensive strategy for tackling health service delivery in the Sundarbans.
For the next five years, FHS India will concentrate on research focusing on systematic understanding of the multidimensional nature of crisis in child healthcare access in delta region of the Sundarbans. However, given that child health care shares the common fundamental problems with overall primary health care system, the uptake of research is expected to significantly impact the overall system.
We are planning operational research that will be piloted to learn about and demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed model.
A common knowledge platform will be established, which helps to establish a communication link not only between the FHS team and the stakeholders but also among the stakeholders themselves.
A Centre for Sundarban Studies will be established to operationalize the concept, which as an institutional body, will generate more resources to provide research and technical support to local stakeholders.
FHS Partners in India
News and announcements from FHS India
Recent FHS India publications
Thow AM, Karn S, Devkota MD, Rasheed S, Roy SK, Suleman Y, Hazir T, Patel A, Gaidhane A, Puri S, Godakandage S, Senarath U and Dibley MJ (2017) Opportunities for strengthening infant and young child feeding policies in South Asia: Insights from the SAIFRN policy analysis project, BMC Public Health, 17(Suppl 2):404 DOI: 10.1186/s12889-017-4336-2
South Asian countries experience some of the highest levels of child undernutrition in the world, strongly linked to poor infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices. Strong and responsive policy support is essential for effective interventions to improve IYCF. This study aimed to identify opportunities for strengthening the policy environment in the region to better support appropriate infant and young child feeding.
Uddin S, Mahmood H, Senarath U, Zahiruddin Q, Karn S, Rasheed S and Dibley M (2017) Analysis of stakeholders networks of infant and young child nutrition programmes in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, BMC Public Health, 17(Suppl 2):405, DOI: 10.1186/s12889-017-4337-1
Effective public policies are needed to support appropriate infant and young child feeding (IYCF) to ensure adequate child growth and development, especially in low and middle income countries. The aim of this study was to: (i) capture stakeholder networks in relation to funding and technical support for IYCF policy across five countries in South Asia (i.e. Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan); and (ii) understand how stakeholder networks differed between countries, and identify common actors and their patterns in network engagement across the region.
Vadrevu L and Kanjilal B (2016) Measuring spatial equity and access to maternal health services using enhanced two step floating catchment area method (E2SFCA) – a case study of the Indian Sundarbans, International Journal for Equity in Health, 15: 87, doi:10.1186/s12939-016-0376-y
Inaccessibility due to terrain and lack of transport leaves mothers travelling for long hours before reaching a facility to deliver a child. In the present article we analyzed the issue of spatial inaccessibility and inequity of maternal health services in the Indian Sundarbans where complex topography and repeated climatic adversities make access to health services very difficult.
Ghosh U, Bose S, Bramhachari R and Mandal S (2016) Expressing collective voices on children’s health: photovoice exploration with mothers of young children from the Indian Sundarbans, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1866, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1866-8
The Indian Sundarbans is marked by inhospitable terrain and frequent climatic shocks which jointly hinder access to health care. Community members, and women in particular, have few means to communicate their concerns to local decision makers. Photovoice is one way in which communities can raise their local health challenges with decision makers. This study unlocks mothers’ voices on the determinants of their children’s health to inform local level decision-making on child health issues in the Indian Sundarbans.
Barman D and Vadrevu L (2016) How is perceived community cohesion and membership in community groups associated with children’s dietary adequacy in disadvantaged communities? A case of the Indian Sundarbans, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1862, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1862-z
Membership in community groups and a sense of community cohesion may facilitate collective action in mobilizing resources towards better health outcomes. This paper explores the relationship of these factors, along with individual level socio-economic variables, to dietary adequacy among children below 6 years of age, a proximate determinant of child malnutrition.