The healthcare scenario in India in the current times is peculiar. World-class five-star hospitals have sprung in various cities across India, and suddenly ‘medical tourism’ has become a buzzword in the corridors of the Government’s health ministry promising 50-100 billion rupees of additional revenue by 2015. But at the same time, 80 children out of every 1000 born in the rural India – where more than 70 per cent of the country’s population reside - do not live to see a single day; and 30 per cent of all infants born in India weigh less than 2.5 kg, which is the World Health Organization’s cut-off level to determine low birth weight with a lower chance of survival.
India, the second most populous country in the world with changing socio-political-demographic and morbidity patterns, is now in a critical stage, healthcare wise. Typically, in low income countries, the greatest burden of ill-health results from communicable disease (respiratory illness, measles, etc.), malnutrition and complications of pregnancy and childbirth; and in high income countries, it is the non-communicable conditions - heart disease, cancer, and accidents – which are concerns of the nation’s health administrators. Developing countries usually experience an epidemiological transition from a communicable disease profile to one characterized by non-communicable diseases. It is this interim period, where there is ‘partial transition’, is what is painful. And India, currently is in this complex condition wherein a good part of society requires costly treatment for chronic illnesses; while a very significant balance remains mired in an earlier (communicable) disease profile. In 1978 India signed the Alma Alta Declaration (named after the city where the conference was held) undertaking to provide “Health for all” by 2000. Since then, three decades have gone by, and in rural Andhra Pradesh today, the situation is no better than only 13 doctors and 9 beds for every 1,00,000 villagers. A farmer has to travel a minimum of 10 kms to spot a government hospital. There are Primary Health Centers at more accessible distances, but they are more often than not dysfunctional, beset with shortage of qualified doctors and non-availability of supporting infrastructure on one hand, and poor health awareness and disbeliefs of the village folk on the other. The consequence is a pathetic health profile of more than half of India’s population.
Hypertension, the most prevalent of the non-communicable disease (if one excludes anaemia and undernutrition) which leads to stroke, ischemic heart disease and renal failure, is not detected in 90 persons out of every 100 in most parts of rural India. The situation, unarguably, is far worse than the ‘Rule of Halves’ in hypertension according to which - only half of the cases are detected, of which only half receive therapy, and of that only half are adequately controlled on it. The state of affairs with diabetes is no different. Though all of us know someone suffering from diabetes, as many as 13 million cases in rural India remain undiagnosed, and given the nature of the disease which opens a Pandora’s Box of complications, the problem is far more serious than one would usually imagine. Again, it is common knowledge that most of the epidemics that have and continue to devastate the Indian underbelly can easily be prevented with small but serious steps in improving rural hygiene.
What is needed, therefore, are effective diagnosis, proactive prevention and raising the health awareness of the rural folk, which can happen not by adding more hospitals in the cities or setting up Primary Health Centres in the villages (as is evident from the current scenario), but by a novel approach of taking ‘the hospital’ to the door step of the patient, simply because most of the rural folk are too poor to travel, are fearful of big towns and cities, set with superstitions carried forward from generations and, for lasting transformation, need a lot of emotional and psychological help, which can happen only in a one-to-one interaction. But is such a thing practical? Can it be done in a country like India where the poor number up to 250 million or more? Read our cover story to find out.
You will be surprised and inspired when you read how Laksminarayana who never knew why his health had deteriorated suddenly or what diabetes is, is happy today with his sugar under control and energy levels high. Rangappa, who thought drinking and smoking is common and harmless, is now an ‘ambassador of clean health’ in his village (Nidimamidi), after been saved from an acute cardiac arrest, thanks to timely diagnosis and instant action by the doctors. And these are only random samples from the 50,000 rural folk that are under the umbrella of Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital service project, started by Bhagavan more than a year now. Just like all other mega service projects of Swami, this too, is a model – a demonstration to the world of what is possible, how it can be done and the enormous benefits it can confer.
What started as the fulfillment of a tiny noble desire of Mother Eswaramma, who just wanted a small hospital in the Puttaparthi village, is now the greatest model of ideal healthcare to the whole world. Bhagavan, the ever compassionate Mother, even after setting up two super specialty hospitals that have offered medicare completely free to over 1.8 million patients irrespective of economic, social or religious background, felt this was not enough; there are too many who are left out, in the vicinity of Puttaparthi itself, who need this more than anybody else. And thus was born the Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital. It is said that for the forlorn and the deprived, God is the only refuge. We see here live examples of this dictum.
It is therefore that, God, in the Lalitha Sahasranama, is described as ‘Pranada’ and ‘Vandaru Jana Vatsala’ which mean ‘the giver of life to all’ and who ‘loves her devotees like a mother’. In fact, this ‘mother aspect’ of the divine is, perhaps, the most favoured facet to relate to by many spiritual aspirants and ordinary folk alike. And in the days of yore, when the number of devotees in Puttaparthi could be counted with ones fingers, there were few privileged families and individuals who were blessed with incredible experiences suffused with this enthralling motherly aspect of beloved Swami. One such fortunate soul is Mrs. Geeta Mohan Ram. When you read her sweet encounters with the divine in the Swami and Me section, you will surely be amazed.
But it is not as if this aspect of Swami is only a thing of the past. On the contrary, we see increasingly more of ‘Swami as a Divine Mother’ as years pass by. All the mammoth service projects, if anything, are only manifestations of immense concern of the Loving Mother. But at a more personal and physical level, the students of Bhagavan are the privileged recipients of this priceless boon. To see how sweet it looks when God becomes your mother, see our Photo Gallery. We also have an inspiring article on this theme by a former student of the Anantapur Campus, again in the Swami and Me section.
More than 50 countries across the world, starting from USA in North America to Zimbabwe in Africa to Australia and New Zealand, celebrate Mothers day in this month of May. For Sai devotees, it is even more special as we observe the death anniversary of Mother Eswaramma on the 6th of this month every year. If there is one thing that we have to emulate from her saintly life, it is her purity.
Purity is, in fact, the basis for all spiritual endeavors. If the Mobile Hospital is successful today, it is because of the purity of purpose behind the whole project. Siddhartha became Lord Buddha (whose birthday we celebrate in this month too) when purity pervaded his entire being. Swami says, “If you have purity, patience and perseverance, you can become Me”. Let us therefore, clean ourselves within and without, and fill it only with holiness, so that, ‘we’ can one day ultimately become ‘He’.
Let noble thoughts enter us from all directions.