This week I was able to spend time learning about the SST hospital, part of its health initiative to have a facility that provides general health services for the Padavedu community. SST recently constructed the infrastructure and it provides resources for ongoing operations that are not otherwise provided by the government. A month ago, SST hired a new doctor, Nirmala, to “run the show.” Nirmala demonstrates a strength’s perspective when she meets with patients. She talks about the prevalence of anemia in the community of Padavedu, and how she feels that many people only see the presenting problem and not the underlying cause. She attempts to engage clients, searching for ways to motivate them to think about general health and wellness as opposed to treating issues as they come up. She connects to the villagers as both a doctor and adviser because sometimes relating to them is more important than managing symptoms and treatment.
In order to engage the patients in a more holistic view of their health, Nirmala advises patients on economics and diet; if they can see the immediate ramifications of their diet on their ability to generate income, she can push them to prioritize their health. I witnessed one patient come to this understanding when the doctor linked the treatment back to the woman’s increased production of work. It seems like many of the patients have never been exposed to the idea that health and wellness can increase and sustain energy for work. Thus, Nirmala’s work is both medical and psycho-educational. Of course, the psycho-educational aspects are harder to internalize and slower to materialize and many patients walk out of their appointments disappointed that there is not a quick fix to their issue. Sometimes they will seek help elsewhere, as they are not able to consider attending to health above economic subsistence. The doctor tries to uncover the underlying issues but the patients are reluctant to disclose information that they may not understand to be relevant to their symptoms.
As the Self-Help Group (SHG) members have shared what they have learned about finance and loans from SST throughout the villages, perhaps they could start sharing wellness and health information with their communities to increase the knowledge around this, always tying it back to increased productivity, since the villagers primary concern is providing for their families. As the SHG members have shared their financial education throughout the villages, perhaps they could start sharing wellness and health information with their communities to increase the knowledge around this, always tying it back to increased productivity, since the villagers primary concern is providing for their families. I have asked health questions in SHG meetings to see if part of this group collaboration could also consist of health management. Usually the response shared by one of the Community Development Officers (CDO) who translates for us is that they are healthy and they work hard. I know both of these descriptors are possible to co-exist. I see these women, now with more savings in their pockets than ever before, appearing healthy through their energetic conversations that abound during our visits. So, if these women are seemingly healthy and aware – why are so many of the community members in Padavedu, including SHG members, still testing positive for anemia?
As a social work student learning about this village, I observe the different facets of community development, preparing to write a case study on the issues and concerns the community faces in Padavedu. The big challenge is to develop a case study that explores solutions to problems that carry weight to the community. Capacity building only works when a community’s needs are in alignment with the social change agent’s goals. Although, I believe that understanding how health and education can be tools that can help a community transcend many struggles and complement their culture of work, the obstacle is distinguishing if this is also the community’s objective. I wonder if this community is willing to accept a new viewpoint into their daily lives. How long does a transformation like this take? I see a potential in the SST hospital and in the influence of SHGs to be a place to encourage a shift in how the community interacts within their environment. I look forward to spending more time observing the SST hospital and speaking to SHG members in the coming week.