How To Conduct A Health Camp For Epilepsy?

by | Mar 25, 2024

What is epilepsy?

It is a non-communicable disease present in the brain and it affects people of all ages, called as ‘Mirgi’ in Hindi. When a person experiences multiple seizures then that person might have epilepsy. For more information on the disease, read here.

Nearly 80% of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated that up to 70% of people living with epilepsy could live seizure-free if properly diagnosed and treated.

Epilepsy. (2024, February 7), World Health Organization (WHO).

The conservative estimate of prevalence of epilepsy in India is 1%. There are more than 1 crore people suffering from Epilepsy in India. It’s presence is higher in the rural community (1.9%) in relation to the urban population (0.6%). Research suggests a prevalence rate of 8.8/1000 population. Further, in rural communities (11.9) it is twice than that of urban areas (5.7). The lack of knowledge of appropriate drugs, poverty, poor health infrastructure, and shortage of trained professionals are the reasons for the existence for this large number of patients. A large number continue to rely on traditional remedies such as “Jadibuti” or “Jangali Dawa”.

Jan Swasthya Sahyog, the organization that I am working with, has started working on Non- Communicable Diseases in Anuppur and Dindori districts of Madhya Pradesh. The region is predominately populated by the Gond and the Baiga Tribe. As a part of our Comprehensive Primary Health Care initiative ‘Health Strengthening System’, we recently organized a camp for Epilepsy patients in both these districts. The objectives of the camp were- To spread awareness and educate the masses about the disease, to diagnose patients suffering from it, to ensure proper and timely treatment for them and organize monthly follow up meetings for the patients hereafter.

WHY IN ANUPPUR? WHY NOW?

We have already been working in Anuppur district in collaboration with the State Government on Sickle Cell Anemia, Maternal and Child health since 2016. Thus, JSS already has an entry point in the public health system here.

To begin any such initiative or an intervention in the district, we require additional favorable circumstances.

  1. Need of the intervention
  2. Feasibility of all stakeholders
  3. Interest by the system/systemic relevance

A project can be initiated, when all these circumstances align with each other.

Why epilepsy?

In our hospital in Ganyari, Chhattisgarh, in the last couple of years, a lot of patients of epilepsy were coming from the districts of Anuppur, Dindori, Mandla, Singrauli which are in Madhya Pradesh. The doctors started observing this pattern. This meant that people are not getting treatment for epilepsy closer to their home. As JSS works with the district government in Anuppur, we approached the district hospitals to collect data on epilepsy patients.

What did the data say?

Shockingly, there were no records of epilepsy patients found in both the district hospital’s data archives . How could this be? the records were quite contradictory to the evidences found by us in Ganyari hospital. Thus, the doctors in JSS felt there was a need for intervention to treat this non communicable disease in the district and approached the government.

JSS had been planning for months to do the camp. In the beginning of this year, all stakeholders (district collector, Chief Medical and Health Officer of Anuppur, funding from state, medical support from AIIMS Delhi and so on) came together. Due to all of the above occurring at the same time, the epilepsy project was initiated.

The following is a step wise guideline on how to organize a health camp. This is an example for Epilepsy and it can be used for other illnesses as well.

STEP 1

Collaborating with the local Government stakeholders for the necessary permissions, medicine supply and cooperation in other arrangements for the camp. Conducting the camp on a Government health facility like District Hospital or a Community Health Center is appropriate. This is because people are familiar with the location. There is a feeling of familiarity and hope.

We, at JSS, spoke to our district collector initially to kickstart the camp. After he approved our documents, it became easier to involve the other stakeholders needed. Some of them were – the pharmacist at the District medical store to handle the supply of medicines, the Block Medical Officer at the Community Health Center where the camp was to be organized and so on.

Meeting at the Anuppur district Collector’s office to discuss the arrangements for the health camp.
JSS staff with the officials of the National Health Mission in Bhopal. The purpose of the meeting was to start a conversation around creating a national portal for the data of epilepsy patients.

STEP 2

Training of the non-medical staff is a good way to begin the preparation of the camp. The non medical staff consists of the counsellors, research associates, logistics manager, district coordinators, Human Resource and so on. This includes educating them about the disease like symptoms of the disease, action points for relatives, counsellors’ role, identification of patients etc. The staff should gain a holistic understanding of Epilepsy in order to help patients and direct them towards the right treatment.

STEP 3

Training of Medical Professionals like Doctors, Chief Health Officers (CHOs) and Auxilary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) in the district is certainly a must. Dr Mamta Bhushan from AIIMS, Delhi was the pioneer who lead the training and the medical camp of epilepsy in Anuppur, Madhya Pradesh in January of 2024 to empower and impart knowledge and skills to the participants in order to better understand and manage epilepsy in primary care and raise community awareness.

Step 4

Spreading the word of the camp using various means of communication like distributing pamphlets, circulating messages on social media groups, display of posters in the medical facilities in the district and word of mouth through medical professionals as can be seen.

STEP 5

Conducting the camp. Some non negotiables are ample comfortable space for the patients to sit and drinking water. Some additional but optional services could be tea and something healthy to eat like some fruit or khichdi to the patients and the people who have accompanied them, if they are waiting for long.

We engaged the patients by talking to them, educating them about epilepsy while they wait for their turn. Many patients reacted by saying that they were waiting for something like this camp since a long time, They were feeling helpless in their situation and did not know who to approach, what to do, which medicine to eat and so on.

Dr Mamta Bhushan collected information about the symptoms from all patients to correctly diagnose them for epilepsy. Further, patient’s medical check up was done like Blood pressure, Hemoglobin and weight. After their diagnosis, Dr Bhushan gave the prescription to the patients. The patients collected their medications from our ANMs as shown in the pictures. The counsellors were collecting feedback from the patients after they collected their medicines.

Camp was in progress till the last patient was treated. Dr Mamta Bhushan met and checked the patients from 9am to 1am the next day. A total of 150 patients visited the camp, that cold winter day, at Community Health Center, Rajendragram in Anuppur. A follow up in the form of a patient support group meeting was held in February and will be conducted monthly from now onwards.

Dr Mamta Bhushan from AllMS, Delhi (Professor of Neurology and specialist in Epilepsy) treating the patients in the camp. She also spoke to many of the patient’s relatives who had accompanied them and further counselled them.

Conclusion

More the awareness about any illness in the society will enable early diagnosis of the ailment. People like you and me will be able to identify the symptoms if seen in our vicinity, if we are aware. After identification, the person can go to the doctor soon and get clarity on his/her situation. Therefore, treatment can be started immediately which will prevent further complications to the patient.

CHANGE STARTS WITH YOU!

– India Fellow Social Leadership Program

You can read this book to gain an understanding on the various health issues prevalent in rural India through human stories:

An Atlas of Rural Health – Jan Swasthya Sahyog

If you are planning to conduct a camp on mental health, read this:

A How-To Guide If You Are Beginning To Understand Mental Health

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