09 Jan Seeing India as a Microcosm of Global Healthcare Needs
Mukti Bosco, co-founder and Secretary General of Healing Fields, spoke at the 2014 Transform Symposium about her efforts with Healing Fields and Opportunity International to improve the public health of women in poor nations. Opportunity International is a conglomeration of more than fifty nonprofit organizations, one of which is Healing Fields. Opportunity International, which Bosco colloquially refers to as Opportunity, seeks to combat poverty and implement positive change for humanity by providing microfinance loans to poor women in twenty-two countries. Opportunity International also trains women in business leadership and encourages women in poverty to have what Bosco calls a meaningful livelihood and a propensity to exit poverty.
Bosco asserts that healthcare crises in poor countries also affect developed nations. Thus, implementing improvements in these countries will also benefit developed nations. For example, during healthcare crises that could spread to developed nations, developed nations tend to funnel resources to the affected nations. Bosco explains that nations are interconnected, and that events in one country align with events in other. Conversely, economic downturns in one nation may allow a developing nation to benefit. For example, while the outsourcing of Western jobs to India has been commonly touted as an economic problem by non-Indians, this situation has been an important vector of economic improvement for India, leading to vast improvements in the state of India’s middle class.
Referring to India as a “microcosm of the world,” Bosco explains that problems with healthcare in India are similar to those in the developed world, albeit on a larger scale. She mentions that access and affordability are two fundamental problems in healthcare’s current state of affairs in the United States. She asserts that it is the same in India: access to and affordability of healthcare are two lacking factors in Indian healthcare delivery. These are the predominant factors Healing Fields seeks to improve upon in India, especially for women. While India has severe problems with poverty, sanitation, and public health, improvement of healthcare delivery is ultimately similar to the same process in more developed nations.
During her endeavors, Bosco has identified three critical elements required to improve public health in underdeveloped areas: health education, health financing, and community collaboration. Bosco affirms that these three critical elements can be used as a universal solution to public health problems. Thus, not only can these critical elements be taken advantage of in the developing world, but they can also lead to health improvements in developed nations. Health education, conducted by community health facilitators, allows women below the poverty line to implement improvements in their own health. Health financing allows the poor access to healthcare. Finally, community collaboration harnesses the collective efforts of multiple organizations in order to actualize improvements in the health of rural India.
To implement community collaboration, Healing Fields and Opportunity International partner with local private healthcare providers, government healthcare providers, businesses, microfinance institutions and nonprofit organizations. Bosco states that when various organizations converge to channel their collective efforts into a community, profound improvements occur, and everyone benefits. Healing Fields and Opportunity International train community health facilitators to mobilize and conduct community health camps within local communities. In addition, these organizations coordinate visits by healthcare providers local communities. These collective efforts serve to enhance the health of women within these villages. Doing so will, by extension, improve public health in rural India at large.
Ultimately, Bosco’s use of health education, health financing, and community collaboration while working with Healing Fields and Opportunity International have led to important improvements in public health and medical infrastructure in rural India. It is her hope and mine that these efforts continue to improve the state of health and healthcare in both poor nations and the developed world.