ONE among the numerous challenges in the healthcare sector in India has been the lack of access to quality services for the poor and marginalised communities. This has been largely due to dismal investment in public healthcare which is just at 1% of the GDP — among the lowest in the world.
The healthcare infrastructure came under considerable strain during the Covid-19 pandemic and exposed its shortcomings. But there are several NGOs which are identifying the root causes of healthcare challenges and are coming up with innovative solutions. They are working in various areas such as child and reproductive health, nutrition, early identification of diseases, and treatment of communicable diseases.
Doctors for You (DFY) was founded in 2007 by doctors, medical students and like-minded people with a vision of “health for all”. Currently, DFY is working on various projects in 17 different states across India involving healthcare professionals, disaster management practitioners, social workers, etc. It reaches out to segments affected by extreme poverty, disasters, neglect and years of injustice.
Their major focus is to address the healthcare and nutritional needs of the affected population. They also work to improve sexual and reproductive health, maternal, infant and child health in emergencies and have vast experience working in disaster-prone areas. DFY has received several awards like the SAARC Award (2010), The British Medical Journal Group Award (2009), Golden Ruby Award (2015) and recognition from state governments for their outstanding contribution to the humanitarian field.
Rural Health Care Foundation (RHCF) has been working for healthcare since 2009 and provides high quality and affordable primary medical care to low-income and underprivileged groups in West Bengal. Their aim is to make healthcare accessible to the poorest and the most deprived sections. RHCF has 17 centres operating across the state which include 12 centres in remote rural areas. Their goal is to continue improving the health and lives of the underserved who face social and financial challenges.
Their healthcare centres provide patients with affordable medical consultations along with a week’s supply of free medication. To date, over 23 lakh patients have been treated at the RHCF centres.
Established in 2009 with the vision of ‘Health and Joy for All’, Swasth is on a mission to build a sustainable and accountable health ecosystem. The organisation’s network of primary healthcare centres provides affordable services to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure by over 50% for those in need.
The centres are focused on enhancing the state of the physical, social, mental and emotional well-being of people. This is done through interventions like courses, classes, workshops and one-on-one interactions. The programmes are designed based on integrating various modalities of well-being like yoga, Ayurveda, nutrition, counselling, coaching, etc.
This is a grassroots organisation that ensures healthcare and nutrition intervention for women and children in vulnerable communities of Mumbai. Their programmes encourage preventive health, balanced nutrition and child development practices in underprivileged settlements. To this effect, they have adopted a holistic approach to embrace, educating and empowering mothers and children in their social environment.
The FMCH Training Center in Mumbai was launched with the objective of developing a cadre of professionals across Maharashtra and eventually the entire country. Urban Nutrition Initiative and Project Poshan are nutrition-specific interventions where FMCH works closely with the families and large groups to promote good health, hygiene, and nutrition practices. Their programmes impact over 930 pregnant and lactating mothers annually.
Founded in 2004 under the Indian Cancer Society, CanKids KidsCan is the only national NGO working across the entire spectrum of childhood cancer care in India. Through their signature program YANA (You are Not Alone), CanKids provides holistic support to a child with cancer from the moment of detection, through diagnosis, treatment, and after. CanKids works in partnership with 113 cancer centres in 62 cities and 27 states of India. In addition, they also run 10 Home Away from Homes (HAH), 2 CanShala, and a Palliative Care Centre – a first of its kind in India.
With healthcare and education as their areas of focus, this nonprofit is working towards making good health a reality for the poorest and the underserved. It has set up model community health programmes in tribal areas like Thuamul Rampur Block of Kalahandi district in Odisha, where families are destitute and their children grossly undernourished. The tribals living here are too familiar with deprivation, sicknesses, and deaths – many unreported and from preventable causes.
Swasthya Swaraj’s Comprehensive Community Health Programme is active in 76 villages and adopts a unique community empowering model to expand its reach. Its overall efforts are towards creating a just and equitable society, free from the shackles of ill health, illiteracy, and poverty.
Aarogya Seva is an international, humanitarian volunteer organisation dedicated to providing quality healthcare services to various segments of society through micro-volunteering. The NGO provides a platform for all sectors of the healthcare industry – including pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, private practitioners, and healthcare service providers of all specialities – to serve patients in marginalised communities.
Aarogya Seva has reached over 100,000 beneficiaries so far and hopes to touch one million lives in the next two years with its army of 25,000 volunteers.
Started in 1991, MAYA is a Karnataka-based non-profit working to create an equitable society that systematically addresses issues around livelihood, education and health.
Through its health programme, MAYA has created a healthcare delivery system for preventive and promotive health. Health workers are trained and enabled with the technology to screen, monitor and advise vulnerable groups for health conditions like blood pressure, blood sugar and anaemia at affordable rates at their doorstep. Currently, there are 100+ health workers operating in three districts covering a population of about 3,00,000.
This 34-year-old works in the vulnerable, semi-tribal and deprived district of Gadchiroli in the easternmost corner of Maharashtra. Its vision is to achieve ‘Aarogya Swaraj’ (healthy life) empowering individuals and groups to take charge of their own health and help them achieve freedom from disease and dependence.
SEARCH has done pioneering work in maternal and newborn health, tribal health, women’s health, reduction of alcohol and tobacco consumption, and non-communicable diseases. These programmes have won accolades internationally including WHO Public Health Champion, TIME Global Health Heroes, MacArthur Foundation Award for Most Effective Institutions and National Award for Women’s Development.
The Mandal provides comprehensive healthcare at an affordable cost to rural communities in the Anand and Kheda districts of Gujarat.
What started with a general hospital with 136 beds is now an institution that includes a medical college recognised by the Medical Council of India, a 720-bed hospital, an institute for post-graduate studies, a school of nursing, a college of physiotherapy, an institute of medical technology and a cardiac care and cancer centre.
(The article was updated in May 2022)
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Samar is a Marketing Communications specialist and freelance writer. She has a master’s in marketing and creativity from ESCP Business School. She is an avid traveler and likes to write about technology, travel, wildlife and sustainability.