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
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.
Paina L, Vadrevu L, Hanifi SMMA, Akuze J, Rieder R, Chan KS and Peters DH (2016) What is the role of community capabilities for maternal health? An exploration of community capabilities as determinants to institutional deliveries in Bangladesh, India, and Uganda, BMC Health Services Research, 16:1861, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-016-1861-0
While community capabilities are recognized as important factors in developing resilient health systems and communities, appropriate metrics for these have not yet been developed. Furthermore, the role of community capabilities on access to maternal health services has been underexplored. In this paper, we summarize the development of a community capability score based on the Future Health System (FHS) project’s experience in Bangladesh, India, and Uganda, and, examine the role of community capabilities as determinants of institutional delivery in these three contexts.
In Future Health Systems, we focused on communities as active service delivery participants across a wide variety of contexts. In this brief, we reflect on the process of unlocking community capabilities, the key actors involved, and the productive tensions within community partnerships forged to build more responsive, resilient and equitable health systems.