ASHA Workers: Pillar of Primary Healthcare

Who are ASHA workers?

An Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) is a community health worker instituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as a part of India’s National Rural Health Mission. Asha workers are the Primary Health workers for rural India.

Role of ASHA workers

When covid-19 came into India lakhs of workers and laborers migrated into rural areas of UP, Bihar, and other states. Over 1.6 lakh accredited health activists (Asha) were given the task to identify 30.4 lakh migrants in Uttar Pradesh. The Centre says there is no national data on migration. They also helped governments in contact tracing and community surveillance. They are the pillars of Primary Health infrastructure in India. It is their responsibility to make the people aware of government health policies and motivate them to get vaccinated. They also distribute hand sanitizer, masks, and prescribed medicines to the people in rural India.

It is really hard in rural areas to make them believe in hospital treatment and medicines. The reasons are the misinformation spread on social media and non-qualified doctors and their own beliefs. ASHAs also contribute in conducting listing of all individuals risk assessment screening of chronic illness like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, TB, leprosy. They are the backbone of the government in controlling covid-19 in the rural area. They are also responsible for the success of the pulse polio mission in India.

Issues and Problems

In recent times,  there were many reports in which the Asha workers, doctors, and Anganwadi members who were sent to get the people vaccinated or spread awareness about it faced discrimination and violence. In some villages they were not allowed to enter, when they reached the place the locals started running away because of the fear of vaccines. They face discrimination even in their families because of the work they do. ASHAs are given very low income (around 1400 to 2000 Rs per month). They are not paid for months during the pandemic.

For many years they have been asking for an increase in salary and timely remuneration, but they are not provided so. They risk their lives for the protection of people. They are not provided with PPE kits, masks, sanitizer, and other medical equipment.

No policy can be implemented in rural areas without their support. The work they do is really appreciable. The government should provide them with proper remuneration, salary, and medical equipment.

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