A Health Clinic as a Starting Point

Northwestern Project RISHI opened a health clinic in Charnia, which will help spur more projects and health improvement.

After its foundation in 2012, Northwestern University’s chapter of Project RISHI selected the village of Charnia, located near Chandigarh in the district of Haryana India. The village primarily housed a migrant brick laying community. The community worked hard, but unfortunately never received the proper standard of care and was subject to a variety of problems, including being overworked and mal-nourished.

During the summers of 2011 and 2012, students travelled to the community to survey villagers and look into the needs of community. They found issues of hygiene, water contamination, malnutrition, and everything in between. However, every single villager surveyed conveyed one terrifying fact: the closest health care facility was over 10 km away. Additionally, the only way to get there was to walk a winding dirt path. Because of these concerns, we focused on developing a health clinic that could function as a centralized health care facility for the population of 10,000.

In the spring of 2014, our goal of opening a clinic became a reality. This two-room clinic employed a full-time physician, Dr. Simrandeep Khaur, and had a rotation of medical students to help provide the best healthcare possible for close to nothing. This past summer, Northwestern Project RISHI visited the newly-unveiled clinic, hoping to see the effect it had been having and how to improve. Dr. Khaur reported that the clinic served an average of 20 patients a day, and had seen a surge of up to 60. The clinic aims to treat all patients with a variety of ailments. It appeared that much of problems Dr. Khaur and her staff faced were symptoms of basic infections and hygiene, which had been exacerbated by poor conditions.

The Village of Charnia

Dr. Khaur further explained another recurring issue was the complaints of “general tiredness” from patients. From past surveys, it has been seen that this pervasive general fatigue occurs throughout the day and persists over long periods of time. While this may not necessarily imply anemia for the general population, Dr. Khaur believes that this may be the issue. Anemia, which is already widespread throughout Indian populations, is worsened by the villagers’ far-from-wholesome diets, mostly consisting of rice and potatoes, and missing important nutrients. As such, Northwestern has agreed that the next initiative should be focused on establishing a hemoglobin meter as part of each appointment. A simple test like this could offer further insight into a major health issue with huge implications.

After travelling to the clinic, this summer, some members also found it unnerving that there was no established records system. The next step now is to establish a medical records database. If properly established, this would provide much information about the patients who are coming in. First, it would record their basic vitals and allow medical staff to compare them to baseline numbers. Second, it would also be able to chart the patient’s growth and physical changes over time. This is extremely important for the patients and our research team, who will use the data to look for ways to continue to improve the health of the residents of Charnia. We have already begun to hold eye and health clinics, work with local doctors to open more clinics in the future, and want to create a sustainable nutrition project. The clinic was simply the first step in an ongoing process.

Article by Jackson Walker and Rajiv Varandani

Originally published at www.projectrishi.org.