Collaborative Rotarian effort brings healthcare services to thousands in India

By Azka Asif, Rotary Service Connections Staff

Rotary Family Health Days (RFHD) is a signature program of Rotarians For Family Health & AIDS Prevention (RFHA). The program promotes disease prevention and treatment by implementing a massive, annual campaign in four countries in Africa that provides free health care services to thousands of people in underprivileged communities. Since it was first conceived in 2011, more than 1.1 million people across South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria have benefited from the program.

In February of this year, in partnership with Rotarians from District 3040, RFHA expanded the Rotary Family Health Days program to India. The Family Health Days program was held at 25 camp sites in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India and served an additional 70,000 citizens during the 3-day campaign!

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To learn more about this successful program, we asked Alicia Michael, the incoming president of Rotarians for Family Health & AIDS Prevention, what it takes to implement a program of this magnitude:

Why did you decide to pilot Rotary Family Health Days in India?

Michael: After achieving proof of concept in Africa, Rotarians for Family Health and AIDS Prevention (RFHA) began to research other areas of the world that would benefit from our signature program. In 2014 we received a request from Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee to bring Rotary Family Health Days to his home country of India.  In addition, Past RI Director Shekhar Mehta has been a RFHA board member and wanted to implement this important program in his country, so we already had a member from the India team on our board.

Which partners (both Rotary and non-Rotary) were instrumental in the pilot’s success? How did you get started planning the expansion in India?

Michael: RFHA serves as the convening organizer to mobilize not only the Rotarian network, but all sectors of the community including the in-country Ministries of Health, the U.S. Mission (CDC and USAID), hundreds of medical service providers, private sector corporations and foundations, and major media houses.

We always begin with strong Rotary leaders from within the country of interest.  Rotarians must lead the efforts and commit to being actively involved for Rotary Family Health Days to be successful. Shekhar Mehta helped us bring together the Rotary leaders of India to initiate the movement.

We always rely on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) when we initiate a program in a new country.  The CDC worked with us during our planning stages to conduct a needs assessment in the State of Madhya Pradesh.  The CDC is a working and technical partner of the Government of India.

How did you build relationships with partners that helped you implement the expansion?

Michael: We first traveled to India to meet with the Rotary leaders and the in-country Ministries of Health.  Shekhar Mehta requested the support of Rotary leaders from Madhya Pradesh to lead the program implementation.  RFHA requested the support and technical advice from the Director of the CDC in India.  We all met one year in advance to plan the program pilot rollout. The India Rotary team in the State of Madhya Pradesh obtained a Letter of Intent from the state government health agency, and they called upon the major media houses to provide pro bono support as well.

It is truly a collaborative effort between the Rotarians and many other organizations that results in this massive 3-day, multiple site health campaign.

What kind of health services were provided to the beneficiaries?

Michael: Services included free health screenings and treatments.  We tested for HIV, diabetes, TB, malaria, hypertension, Hepatitis B and C, blood pressure, lung function, cervical cancer and more. The government of India and private hospitals provided hundreds of physicians and many basic medicines such as antibiotics, gastrointestinal medicines and much more were prescribed at each camp.

There were also psychologists and psychiatrists on site for mental health screenings and post-diagnosis counseling.

What was the project budget and how were the funds obtained?

Michael: The total retail value of the pilot program in India is USD $2,790,000.  RFHD served 70,000 citizens over our 3-day campaign with each receiving an estimated value of $25 in health services. This equates to the in-kind donations of time and service by the physicians and physician assistants along with the donated medication to a total of $1,750,000 in medical support necessary to the program.

Equally important is the volunteer support of the Rotarians and Rotaractors which account for another $780,000 of in-kind contribution. This amount is determined using an independent monetization tool and a Price Waterhouse salary survey.  Additionally, we include the in-kind donations of major media at $100,000.

The costs to manage the program, train the Rotarians, mobilize the community and purchase necessary supplies were funded by a $160,000 Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation and supported by District Designated Funds from District 6900 (USA), District 3040 (India) and direct contributions by Rotary clubs.

Was the project different in India compared to Africa?

Michael: Rotary Family Health Days certainly takes on a different face depending on the country in which we are working because the program is led by the local Rotarians.  India truly helped transform RFHD from a disease prevention program to a disease prevention and TREATMENT program!  The on-site access to free medications and the immediate scheduling of follow up surgeries and care was also new to the program.

India’s Rotarian leaders developed an on-line registration and data collection system, utilized at all 25 camp sites.  Using this approach, we shortened participants’ wait time and tracked the number of citizens served in real time.

What do you think makes this project so successful?

Michael: Rotary Family Health Days is driven by the in-country Rotary clubs with thousands of Rotarians working together in the planning and execution of this massive health campaign. The program would not happen without club support.

Rotarians For Family Health and AIDS Prevention operates as a public/private partnership where all partners depend on one another without competing with each other.  Each partner has a specific role and set of responsibilities with RFHA serving as the convening organization.

The Rotary brand also brings the highest level of trust and neutrality to the citizens who are receiving our free healthcare services.

When and where are you planning to offer the next program?  What kinds of preparations are needed before each program?

Michael: We are focused on continuing to scale up our program in Africa and India for the remainder of 2016 and 2017. We also have received interest from Latin America and will explore opportunities there.

The planning for each Rotary Family Health Days program begins 18 months in advance.  Once a location is identified, we travel to meet with the Rotary leaders and the in-country Ministries of Health.  Then we work with the identified leaders to build the complex committee structure, secure funding for resource mobilization and training of the local Rotarians and Rotaractors in monitoring and evaluation systems, obtain written commitments from the major media houses for program promotion, develop relationships and secure support with in-country NGO’s and provide the necessary monitoring and evaluation resources (both manpower and templates) that are crucial to reporting the impact and sustainability of our program.

Watch a documentary to learn more about RFHA’s incredible impact through Rotary Family Health Days. Interested in joining the team or partnering on Rotary Family Health Days? Contact RFHA to learn more.

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Author: rotaryservice

The Rotary Service Connections blog helps Rotarians plan effective and inspired service projects. If you have questions, comments, or story recommendations, contact us at rotary.service@rotary.org

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