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Mobile diabetology treats rural India
Diabetes, the sweet killer, has taken strong roots in India. Once considered a rich man’s disease, today diabetes’ prevalence is high even among the poor.

The stats are skewed. While 72 per cent of India’s population lives in rural areas, 80 per cent of the doctors practise in urban areas. This mismatch means that diabetes health care is simply not available in rural areas.

 

Chunampet project...

The Chunampet project was part of the study done to map the rural diabetes prevalence. Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) along with World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) started the project in 2006. About 28,000 people from 42 villages were screened for diabetes. “Initially the response from people was quite low, we trained local people, especially women to spread the message. Eventually people realised and started to come.” said N Sivakumar, Project Director.

Situated 100 km from Chennai, Sai Rural Diabetes Specialities Centre provides the state-of-the-art diabetes treatment. With facilities on par with any of its urban centres; this diabetes clinic attracts on average 25 patients per day. “As part of the project, we had to have a hospital set up. So we rented out a building. But later, C Ramakrishna, a philanthropist, on seeing the work, donated us land. Since 2009, we are functioning from here,” said Sivakumar

 

Rural diabetology...

This rural health care model is self sustained. Locals from the village who have passed 10th grade are selected and sent for a month’s training to the head office at Gopalapuram, Chennai. After training they are employed at Chunampet. This centre employs 43 people. The highlight of the centre is the telemedicine van. Equipped with instruments to capture ECG, retina pictures, blood samples, the van has a V Sat donated by ISRO atop it to transmit data rapidly to the centre at Gopalpuram

 

Care on wheels

We chanced to visit the mobile diabetology van. It was a compact clinic on wheels. The van driver, who is trained to be a technician, captures the retina images of a patient and it is transmitted immediately. The doctor, on analysis, through video-conferencing, gives precautionary notes and asks the patient to visit after six months. The prescription is sent through email, and reaches within seconds. The van with equipment costing Rs 55 lakh provides treatment as well as employment to the villagers.

The hospital has a well-equipped laboratory with auto analysers for accurate and fast diagnosis, international grading of retinopathy, diabetic foot clinic with doppler studies, dental clinic, diabetes supplies shop, special diabetic footwear at very low cost. The centre provides free diabetic treatment for the poor and needy and also continues diabetes related research activities.

“We have treated 9945 patients at this centre. The success of this project lies in the regular patient inflow. We have people visiting from Chidambaram, Pondicherry and other towns in spite of several hospitals enroute, theirin lies our success,” said Dr H Rakesh, consultant diabetologist.

In spite of the lack of availability of specialists at rural areas, this mobile model is a proven success. With some modifications, this can be tweaked for other medical services and reached to rural masses.

 

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