In the health sector, especially in the rural areas, the concept of ASHA is highly popular. ASHA stands for 'Accredited Social Health Activist' which was instituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as a part of India's National Rural Health Mission that began in 2005. At present there are 32,546 ASHA workers in the Assam who are offering selfless services for a greater cause.
In order to learn more about the concept of ASHA, Fit Northeast interviewed Namita Kalita, who is an ASHA worker in the Bhagaduttapur area of Kahilipara in Guwahati.
Fit Northeast: Who is an ASHA?
Namita Kalita: ASHA is actually the primary health worker in any village or a few localities in the cities. In case of any health emergency, the locals can first contact the ASHA workers and receive the primary medical assistance. It can be said that an ASHA worker is a bridge between the people and the doctors.
Fit Northeast: What are the contributions of an ASHA worker in the health sector (or what are her duties)?
Namita Kalita: An ASHA worker has an allocated area where she serves the needs of the people along with the Anganwadi worker. An ASHA worker visits every house within the allocated area and makes the people aware of various diseases, feed polio drops to the children, carry out immunization programs.
In villages, they counsel every pregnant lady from the day of her conception till the day of delivery. They bring the pregnant lady to the health centres and get her vaccinated. After the child is born, they even keep an eye of every health need of the mother and the child and get the child vaccinated.
When any lady in a particular locality is pregnant, she first approached the ASHA, then the ASHA teaches her how to deal with it, what are the precautions to take, what food to eat, what medicines to take. Then the ASHA introduces the pregnant lady to the local doctor, who is an expert in his field.
Apart from dealing with pregnant ladies, the ASHA also distributes all kinds of medicines to the people in her respective locality. She even makes arrangements for things like wheel-chairs, hearing aids and other necessities.
Due to longer times of being outside home, we often have to adjust with the washrooms which we get. Due to which sometimes we have urinary infection. We immediately consult the doctors and take medicines.
Fit Northeast: How you are operating during this Covid time?
Namita Kalita: Time of Corona has been a tough time for every ASHA. We are visiting every house in their area and creating awareness among the people about how to keep themselves safe during this period, what are the precautions to be taken. Even when someone is detected with Covid, we have to visit that family and distribute all the necessary medicines to the patient and among all the other family members in that house.
We even accompany the food distributor to every infected person's home. It is our duty to call the sanitization workers and paste a banner of quarantine outside the homes of the patients. We are even responsible for testing the patient after 7 days and check if he/she has turned negative or not.
Fit Northeast: What are the educational qualifications an ASHA needs?
Namita Kalita: It needs a minimum of higher secondary or class 12 passed as these days we need to do lots of paperwork. It is even good if she knows computer because these days we have to enter everything into the app through the computer or mobile.
Fit Northeast: What kind of health issues do you face due to your profession?
Namita Kalita: In most cases we have to stay out of our houses for longer hours. During extreme summer days, we feel weak at times as we stay extremely busy and get a very little time for ourselves during our duty hours. Due to longer times of being outside home, we often have to adjust with the washrooms which we get. Due to which sometimes we have urinary infection. We immediately consult the doctors and take medicines.
Besides, there are many other health issues which we face. Even in the pregnancy stage, we have to work in the few initial months of the pregnancy. We try to drink lots of water as water helps remove toxins from the body and purifies it.
Fit Northeast: What precautions/steps the government takes to secure the health of the ASHA workers? Is any kind of health insurances given?
Namita Kalita: We do not get any kind of pension and not aware of any health insurance but we are fully vaccinated by the government. We are also given medicines free of cost which helps in cutting a lot from the medical expense.