Unless we know what we are fighting, we don’t know what to fight it with. Data in India is problematic because there is either a lack of an adequate number of people for collection or a lack of means to collect it.
To overcome the gap between actual and official data, we need more people like Archana Shiwale and Renuka Dhanak. They are part of Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems or HDSS centre in Vadu, near Pune. As part of health demographic surveillance, they collect data on the number of births, deaths, migration, (both inbound and outbound), and marriages, among other things, to understand the dynamics around health.
These women collect data from around 22 villages and update data in the system once every six months. HDSS centres started running full-fledged in 2002 and the teams consist largely of women. Women do not have any value in households in rural parts except as child-bearing machines. But now that these women are coming out and working, technologically literate with tablets in their hands, they gain respect in their homes and are economically empowered too.
While talking about the purpose of the mission, Sanjay Juvekar (officer-in-charge of HDSS centre) told the Village Square,
“We aim to provide evidence-based, sustainable, and rational healthcare solutions for the rural population using globally relevant community-based ethical research,”
Though we have many agencies including NSSO and Registrar General of India, we either have incomplete or duplicated data, with a lot of exclusion. While talking about the low allocation of funds from the state government, according to Livemint, health journal Lancet states that it,
“might simply reflect structural weaknesses in the system that need to be addressed with more resources and a different approach to provision and delivery of care”.
Working more with men and women at the grassroots level would be an approach that could ensure actual representation of people which would, in turn, help in strengthening the healthcare system.