Merck Approves Financial Aid to Arogya Ghar to Provide Healthcare

Arogya health workers in action

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Washington, DC – Arogya, the Laptop-based Clinics for Masses project of Sustainable Innovations, recently received a shot in the arm as The Merck Company Foundation approved a financial injection of $341,250 for the organization to continue its work providing healthcare to people at extremely low cost.

Welcoming the grant, Atul Jain, Chairman of Sustainable Innovations, said, “We are immensely grateful to Merck for the grant, which enables us to continue the work of delivering healthcare to rural villages and urban slums. The grant comes at a critical juncture and we are looking forward to additional funding from other sources.”

BP Agrawal, a former health information industry executive, envisioned Arogya Ghar as a portable clinic furnished with computerized medical knowledge for common ailments.

According to Agarwal, Arogya Ghar makes basic care affordable and accessible to vulnerable populations, especially children and women.

“The monetization of health data is expected to generate enough revenue to defray the costs of care, will mean better compensations for nurses, and will make care affordable for vulnerable population,” said Agarwal.

Earlier Sustainable Innovations (SI) won the World Bank’s Development Marketplace award of $200,000 in worldwide competition.

Using the award money, SI computerized protocols for diarrhea, anemia, ear infection and immunization, trained several health workers, and piloted Arogya in 4 villages of Jherli Panchayat in the Jhunjhunu District of Rajasthan. The training and operational support was provided by SI’s partner Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Pilani, Rajasthan.

The computerized protocols are loaded on a laptop equipped with diagnostic devices called portable clinics. Local high school graduate girls and boys are trained to operate the portable clinic, or Arogya, and then each health worker is assigned a cluster of villages with an aggregate of 5,000 people. They typically carry Arogya in a shoulder bag and go door-to-door delivering care for an affordable per visit fee, typically $0.50, in the western state of Rajasthan India.

According to Agarwal, Rajasthan has 40,000 villages and 56 million people, with a vulnerable population exceeding 20 million. Of this population, 37 percent of females suffer from reproductive tract infections (RTI) and the preventable-disease death rate for infants is 82 per thousand and 32 per thousand for the state’s 11 million toddlers.

Working tirelessly, Agarwal is trying to convince the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to adopt Arogya’s social enterprise model for widespread delivery of health care to rural villages and urban slums.

Agrawal said that recently the state government encouraged him to implement the full complement of the common ailments and preventable diseases protocol and to also add vision testing to the Arogya.

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