Pursuing jeeon Where Health Care is a myth

Life is moving swiftly along and blogging has been in the back burner as I’ve focused on living at the expense of documenting. Since I have not reflected on my journey in Jeeon until now, let me start from the beginning.

When I joined jeeon two months back, all I knew was that the core mission of jeeon is to Make Wellbeing Universal. That it was a novel initiative trying to blend technology and healthcare for bringing a breakthrough in the current rural health system. Luckily, from my first day at jeeon in my official role, I got the chance to hear our patients’ voice from field and saw directly the doctors helping our valued patients from Dhaka. But the people behind those voices, and the air of melancholy, only turned my world upside down when I finally got a chance to make my very first field visit to Kishoreganj two months into my job.

In the villages where Jeeon operates, we met a lot of families who were initially unsure about how jeeon works, but later once they experienced it first hand, they started trusting our services. For a rural person it is understandably hard to believe a system which works in such a nontraditional way, i.e. m-health. Moreover, there have been cases with relatively poor outcomes and those bitter experiences caused an upsurge of frustration and anger! Fortunately, jeeon served a great many patients who actually got cured or benefited, and managed to gain their trust on our “doctors from Dhaka”. As I was speaking to our patients, I was trying to embrace the emotions and complexity behind it all, and to reflect on what these meant for our journey ahead. My skeptic mind was still unsure whether what we were doing was truly adding value, or was it just old wine in a new bottle?

However, my intellectual and analytical defenses broke down in the face of the broken health system I witnessed in the Haor areas of Itna village. Here was a place where people had to travel hours by boat to get to the nearest hospital or clinic. There were no doctors available, and the boats stopped at 4 PM every day. If you got sick after that, best of luck trying to survive till the next day and making it all the way to town.

The newly built jeeon telehealth centre (Itna)

But it was not all despair. I felt an equal measure of hope when I met the group of elders from the village dedicated enough to set up a Jeeon telehealth centre spending money from their own pockets. The newly built community health centre blew me away at first sight. The covering tins were nicely painted with Jeeon brand colors, even inside the centre it was well-decorated, furnished and clean. The chief of the community officially invited us to come sit inside with them. After introductions, they openly shared their frustrations with us. They told us how thousands of people in these villages were helplessly dependent upon the existing pharmacists or homeopathics, most of whom are often untrained. They told us about adolescent girls, young mothers, pregnant ladies who continue to suffer in silence.

It seemed they trusted jeeon’s offering enough, and were desperate enough in the face of lifelong scarcity of proper care, that they went as far as to contribute their own resources to set up a center. They considered jeeon’s offering a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape.

The sparkles in the eyes of the committee members revealed sheer amount of high expectation from jeeon. They expected “quality health services from doctors at a modest cost”. It was clear they cannot afford to be bluffed or cheated even one more time.

Of course, with high hopes comes the fear of dissatisfaction and frustration. Living up to these expectations will not be an easy job, and ensuring quality e-health service to a hard-to-reach area like ITNA is even tougher. As I traveled back to Dhaka from my trip, I couldn’t shed my unease at the degree of expectations we have to meet and the sheer volume of responsibility we have on our shoulders.

But at the same time, I came back humbled after meeting these amazing village leaders who are taking it on themselves to bring a change in their health situation. If they can dream and act so BIG with their severely limited resources, why can’t dynamic jeeon team, with its endless supply of creativity, skills and resources, someday spread the spirit of well-being across Bangladesh?