The Swasthya Community Health Partnership: Gender-based health care in rural south India
The Indian social context is marked by gender bias, which has resulted in differentials in health status that disadvantage women at all stages of their lives, and by a prohibition against open discussion of sexual health or sexuality. Thus, there is an urgent necessity to devise gender-based interventions to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. One such program is the Swasthya Community Health Partnership, which is the joint effort of an international student group, the Sharanda Dhanvantari Charitable Hospital, and local women. The Partnership relied on local participation during the planning and implementation stages to ensure that its goals met community health priorities. The Partnership team is composed of five specially trained public health nurses who 1) organize small group sessions on health-related issues for women, adolescent girls, and entire villages; 2) provide basic medical care and counseling; and 3) conduct research on local health issues. Each nurse has established a village-based outreach center that will eventually become a resource center for health information and supplies. Each week, a team from the hospital, including a physician, visits each center. The Partnership intends to continue its efforts to provide rural communities with the resources needed to affect their lives. Goals include developing male-specific modules, implementing prenatal counseling, and expanding the adolescent health education program.