ICONECS Session on
‘E-Content in Health and Environment’
October 17, 2008

By S Mehdi Imam Zaidi

The session on ‘E Content in Health and Environment’ was dedicated to the importance of ICT and digital content in health services delivery with affordable quality and accessible content and services, at the same time, overcoming time, geographical, economic and social limitations. The focus was on how ICT and digital content can facilitate promotion and sustenance of the environment with larger attention on local ecosystem.

Addressing the importance of this new technology and its effectiveness, Mr Ravi Agarwal from Toxics Link explained how Information Technology has the potential to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care in today’s times. “Although nowadays there is less diffusion of IT in the health care sector, but surveys indicate that providers plan to increase their investment,” he said.

Dr. Ashok Patil from PRI University, rightly commented that IT is a tool of immense capability. “IT can help in accomplishing tasks that people cannot do physically and by conventional methods. It provides so many services over a vast area at a much lower expenditure,” he added.

Delegates of various organisations from all over India and neighbouring countries, who were also the nominees for the Manthan Awards, working in this respect, had taken part in this platform to discuss the needs and goals that have to be achieved and also the barriers that are hampering quality health services to be disseminated to the urban as well as rural community through the medium of IT.

Mr. Balaji Utla from HMRI, Hyderabad;  Dr Ritu Joseph Biyani from Project HighWays Infinite, Pune; Monish Chopra from Web Health Centre, TCS, Tamil Nadu; Prof. Luftur Rahman from Association for Advancement of Information Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh;  Srividya Sen from Babycentre  , New Delhi; Ahmad Babu from Implementation of Rajiv Arogya’s Community Health Insurance Scheme, Aarogyastri Health Care Trust, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh;  Dr NB Dholakia from Department of Health & Family Welfare, Gujarat were some of the prominent participants.

They explained the ventures undertaken by them to provide efficient health facilities, information and solutions over the net to the people, especially those in rural areas.

Speaking for the Health Management and Research Institute (HMRI) Hyderabad, Mr. Balaji Utla described how HMRI being a non-profit organization is working in the field of disseminating health services by focusing on augmenting public health delivery systems and leveraging Information and Communication Technologies and modern management practices. HMRI envisages supporting public health systems run by government to provide and improve access and the quality of services to the vulnerable sections of the society. HMRI and Government of Andhra Pradesh have come together under a public private partnership (PPP) to augment the health delivery systems in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Satyam is providing the technical support to the organization. Presently HMRI is providing facilities such as child care, mother care, counselling, paramedics, information pertaining to various diseases and health providers such as doctors, nursing homes, tertiary care hospitals, blood banks, diagnostic services providers etc. This endeavour can be seen as a good example which can be replicated in other states to focus on health services provided, especially to the rural people, HMRI endeavours to enable the rural people through the medium of its website, to obtain the services provided by them.

We need to overcome fear and take things in the right spirit. This was a very important lesson learnt at the session when Dr Ritu Biyani spoke about her victorious battle with cancer and how she is helping those suffering with it, especially the ones in remote areas, with the help of innovative use of ICT. Dr Biyani was a dental surgeon in the Indian Army and a professional paratrooper. Her project ‘Highways Infinite’ is primarily based on cancer awareness and specially breast cancer among women.

Mr. Monish Chopra of Web Health Centre, TCS, Tamil Nadu, talked about how the Web Health Centre provides e-Health service to the people through web. Services such as online consultation, health news, information about alternative medicine, women’s health information, symptom checker, student centre, etc. are provided by Web Health Centre. With the help of TCS, they have developed a disease surveillance system that keeps them informed about new diseases that people will report to them.

Interestingly, health care through ICT tools and digital content are not limited to conventional illness, it can enfold new arenas like pregnancy and bringing up babies.

Srividya Sen of BabyCentre India explained her website, which is all about pregnancy mother’s health, and also parenting till the child attains the age of five. The portal gives information about everything that a woman should know about pregnancy and parenting, right from the day of getting pregnant till the baby attains the age of five. Other services over the website include birth clubs, pregnancy calendars, ovulation calculator and also a bloggers community where new mothers can share their experiences and get help from other members of the site. She desired that with the help of ICT, the programme can be taken to the grass roots in the country.

For all the talk on health, we have to remember that a healthy environment and taking care of nature is as important for a good life.

For the protection of environment, representative of ICIMOD from Nepal, Mr. Sushil Pandey explained how they have developed books and DVD’s on the issues relating to mountain people and environment. They lay emphasis on the improvement of livelihood of the mountain people at the same time protect the environment. The increased number of visitors on their website and number of downloads reflect the increasing awareness about the issue.

A discussion on the work being done by these organisations, and their results experiences led to various recommendations which would improve the overall state of affairs in these fields. They are as following-

1) There should be sharing of database to enhance the functioning of the various organizations

2) Government’s funds can be saved by questioning the organizations on their working and informing the government about the progress in the work.

3) Expenditure gets doubled when different organizations are working on the same problems. There can be some co-ordination to organise the working in a better way

4) Money should be spent on creating awareness about health issues and a better environment

5) There should be copyright of the data of the hospitals

6) Very importantly, there should be negotiation with the vendor (in these cases corporate) to reduce implementation cost.

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