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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Edition3: Dr Abhay and Rani Bang

Dr. Abhay Bang was born at Wardha to Thakurdas and Suman Bang who are followers of the Sarvodaya movement inspired by Gandhian thoughts.
He spent his childhood in Gandhi's Sevagram Ashram at Wardha with Mahatama Gandhi's foremost disciple Acharya Vinoba Bhave.
Rani Bang (formerly Rani Chari) was born in Chandrapur. Abhay and Rani completed their graduation and post graduation in medical studies from Nagpur University. Abhay got married to Rani in 1977.
After their medical studies, the couple moved to Wardha and co-founded Chetna Vikas - a non-profit organization. While working in villages of Wardha district they realized the need for further studies in public health to address larger health-care issues. Both of them completed Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.
After returning to India they started working in Gadchiroli district. They founded SEARCH in December 1985 and started working on community health problems. They identified the main causes for infant mortality in the region and devised a strategy of home-based neonatal care to address them.
In 1990, the couple raised a movement for liquor ban in Gadchiroli district. The movement resulted in liquor ban in the district in year 1992, being the first example in India of liquor ban due to public demand.
Rani Bang also works on health and gynecological problems of rural women. She conducts sessions on sex education for adolescent and teenagers.In 2006, they started an initiative - NIRMAN, for identifying and nurturing social change-makers in Maharashtra. How did it start and journey throughout?
Like many great medical break-throughs, Drs. Abhay and Rani Bang's discovery of how to reduce child deaths in the developing world as much as 75% came from a deceptively simple premise. Dr Abhay decided to listen to their patients. That may sound obvious, but in 1986, when the pair returned to their poor, central Indian hometown of Gadchiroli with master's degrees in public health from Johns Hopkins University, it was a novel approach.
The priorities for the developing world were decreed in abstract by the medical establishment. Everyone said population control was the No. 1 priority and family planning the No. 1 solution. That approach ran counter to principles Abhay learned growing up in Mohandas Gandhi's ashram at nearby Sevagram (literally, Service Village), which favored community and consensus over hierarchy and imposition.
He and Rani, had already decided to follow Gandhian principles and live and work with the poor, founding a trust they called the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health. After setting up a lab in an old warehouse, they began surveying two nearby villages. The results were immediate. When they actually talked to the mothers, they discovered women had other needs than just contraception. They found 92% had gynecological diseases.
In 1989, the pair published their research in the journal Lancet. The global population policy changed from looking at mere reproduction to the whole issue of women's reproductive health.
That was their first experience of how powerful this approach could be.
Encouraged, the Bangs listened some more. They identified alcohol abuse as another big issue and began addiction treatment. And given that half their patients were from the forest-dwelling Gond tribe and wary of city hospitals, the Bangs asked them what a Gond hospital might look like. The result is what Abhay named Shodhagram (Research Village), a medical center outside Gadchiroli that resembles a village, with separate huts housing the lab, surgery, pharmacy, wards, library and even a shrine to the Gond goddess Danteshwari.
It was soon after moving to Shodhagram that Abhay and Rani were presented with the tragic inspiration for their greatest innovation. A tribal woman came in with a tiny baby boy. They took him, laid him on bed, and he died, right there and then.The child's death haunted the two doctors. They decided to tackle a subject the medical community had long abandoned: the stubbornly high child-mortality rate in the developing world. Abhay and Rani identified 18 causes of newborn death, from the obvious, like malnutrition, to the surprising, like the habit of expectant Gond mothers of starving themselves and their unborn child for an easier birth. The Bangs found no problems that couldn't be treated by a health worker with rudimentary skills, some infant sleeping bags and an abacus on which to record every 10 heartbeats.
So Abhay and Rani got a seamstress to stitch the sleeping bags and a carpenter to makthe abacuses, and they drew up a health training program that they taught to a newly assembled corps of village health workers. In 1999, the Bangs published the results of their efforts, again in the Lancet. They had cut child mortality in half--a figure that would fall to a quarter by 2003--for a cost of $2.64 for each child saved. The program is being adopted across India, where more than a quarter of the 4 million annual newborn deaths occur, and in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and parts of Africa.
Recently Time magzine honoured them as 'Global Heroes of Health'.Government of Maharashtra awarded them "Maharashtra Bhushan' Other award include National award : Stree Shakti Puruskar 2005 ( March 8th, 2008), Jamanalal Bajaj Award from Jamanalal Bajaj Foundation, Mumbai (2006) and many many more. Their work will definitely inspire generations of medicos to come.

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