It was an amazing experience and an unexpected one – yesterday we could not run a health awareness program as planned, because the chief minister of Tamil Nadu had passed away the day before and it was not possible for the participants to travel to our learning center.
That’s why – two friends (one of them is a medical doctor) and myself – decided to take one of the blood pressure machines and to visit one of the tribal villages where we are known and where in the past we had already built toilets in close collaboration with a local non-profit organisation.
I know how the families live there. Their life is not easy. The houses are very small, old, not water tubes, no toilets close by. The people are poor and many of them gain less than 250 INR a day (this means less than 3 EUR) – if they find some work in the woods, the brickling factories or in some other activities which – for sure – are not very attractive.
There are also a lot of health issues because of missing health awareness and health affordability. Sometimes even the bus ticket to go and visit the doctor at a primary health care center is a real challenge …
When we arive they are all curious and want to learn about blood pressure, what it is, which are the good, the normal pressure values and what happens if their measurements are higher. The women are the first who want to be tested. But after a while also some village men come closer. We teach a young women to do the test with the machine in the right way. And she is very proud that she can do it – in front of all the others. She wants to know many things and always observes well how our friend, the doctor reacts when the measurement is not ok. She learns even to recognise if there is too much water in the legs and to note all data in a form.
Fighting the silent killer
We are really surprised as we did not expect that the village people would have reacted in that way. We have left the blood pressure machine in the village to the lady who had learned so much within a few hours. In the next weeks she will regularly check all neighbors and relatives and involve a local doctor in case the machine indicates critical data. Of course, we will be in contact with her, too , but now it depends on her engagement to make morehealth happen in the village – at least in terms of screening potential high blood pressure cases that normally would stay undiscovered and lead for sure one day to a critical disease. High blood pressure is often a silent killer.
What I learned?
It does not cost too much, if you really want to teach people a few things about health, but these few things can already prevent so many bad consequences such as heart attacks and stroke. Andit is never about us, but always about them and this means that one thing is important: We should train the people to become self sufficient and to take the ownership for checking and caring for their own health status.