A woman belonging to a poor family in Sirajganj has spent maximum time of her life to look after her family members. She was facing a great challenge to maintain her own health as poverty hijacked all scopes from her life.She helplessly searched an opportunity to meet a doctor to share her problems. But her financial capacity did not allow her to visit a doctor and even to buy essential medicines. Fortunately, a free health camp in her area helped her break the deadlock and she received solutions to her problems from a doctor through a videoconference.
In Thakurgaon, fight against poverty compelled a mid-age man to show negligence to different family-related issues and health is one of them. As a result, sufferings from different diseases went beyond their control. Health problems amplified financial complexities that eventually destroyed harmony of his family life. Realising his situation, a local NGO advised him to participate in a free health camp. At first virtual experience generated huge confusion in his mind. But his confidence level increased ultimately when suggestions from doctor met all his expectations.
A school-going girl in the slum area of Dhaka learned about computer but she did not get change to experience it practically. A free health camp at her school added an incomparable experience to her life. The girl saw a doctor on computer screen and it seemed to her unbelievable. She with the assistance from her mother asked some questions to doctor. She became extremely happy when her inquisitive mind got appropriate answers.
NeoSTAR Innovation, a Bangladesh-based technology company has created these lucid examples of digital health through its e-health project. UAE-based Bank Alfalah is helping the organisation to implement such kind of project for poor and marginal people of Bangladesh. Apart from regular banking, Bank Alfalah is trying to improve quality of life of underprivileged communities by supporting such kind of project under CSR programme.
Bangladesh is home to 160 million people and majority of them live in rural areas where they have limited or no access to basic health services. These people are playing a great role in developing rural economy and they need right support for their health in order to improve their life and to increase their productivity. Considering financial and resource constrains, it is really a challenging task for the country to address health issues of this massive population. As a result, only information technology-aided process can change the scenario.
Realising it, NeoSTAR Innovation is implementing an e-health project where modern ICT tools are utilised to provide free health consultancy to destitute people. In each medical camp a senior doctor from Dhaka delivers speech on particular disease through videoconference. He/she also interacts with selected patients from the participants of medical camp. Besides, a local medical officer with the help of senior doctor issues prescription and distributes medicine among participants.
The main objective of this e-health initiative is to help Bangladesh achieve ‘Goal3’ (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) of Sustainable Development Goals declared by the United Nations. Several target areas have been identified to achieve the goal. But the project very clearly focuses on areas such as women health, communicable and non-communicable diseases in order to increase strength of poor people to fight against different diseases.
According to UN Women, pregnancy and childbirth pose particular risks. Every day, 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth around the world. Globally, that amounted to about 303,000 women in 2015.
Because of the socio-economic condition of the country, women in rural areas generally get less support to live healthily. Unsafe work environments, excessive efforts to handle domestic activities and gender discrimination create risk for their health. At health camp women get the opportunity to share their problems. In many cases, right awareness solves many problems and protects their life as well. But in some cases we saw women need pharmaceutical interventions to solve their problems.
Bangladesh has shown remarkable success in controlling communicable diseases. Many people now have access to clean water and sanitation. These facilities have averted the outbreak of different diseases. Income rise in rural families is also an important factor in this regard. But many people or families do not have right information to prevent different communicable diseases. For them we are developing a website that will contain latest information about various diseases.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) impose a large burden on human health worldwide. Currently, 63 per cent of all deaths worldwide stem from NCDs – chiefly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. The cumulative economic losses to low- and middle-income countries from the four diseases are estimated to surpass US$7 trillion by 2025.
No doubt NCDs are emerging threat for Bangladesh. Quick identification of right disease will save life and assets. In health camp we offer free medical tests to know the disease and then guide patient with appropriate suggestions to maintain a better life.
E-health is a new concept in Bangladesh. Availability of high-speed internet is the key factor to implement the concept in rural and remote areas of the country. Besides, right investment will drive the growth and effective support from different stakeholders is indispensable to overcome all challenges.
The writer is Chief Executive Officer, NeoSTAR Innovation