KEM Vadu, Maharashtra

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The setting up of a KEM field unit in Vadu in the late 1970s was due to the efforts of the late Dr Banoo Coyaji of KEM hospital. The unit functioned as a Primary Health Unit (PHU) of the government, which Dr Coyaji used to frequent every week to render services to the population in the area.

Thereafter, a full-fledged outreach program was established as a result of a tripartite agreement between KEM hospital (private partner), the Zila Parishad and State Government (public sector partners). The program was established to cover 8 villages in the Khaveli block, and 14 in the Shirur block (22 in total).

The partnership formally recognized the field unit as a venue through which the primary health care needs of the population can be met. The government supported this initiative by extending its own employees (multipurpose female/male workers) as outreach field workers.

The KEM Vadu hospital continues to provide outreach services to a reduced total of 14 villages, as some villages now fall under new Primary Health Centres (PHCs). The government outreach staff, though hired by the government, reports to the KEM Vadu hospital. The hospital, in turn, reports to the government. The benefit of this arrangement lay in the fact that the functionality of government staff can be modified to better serve the needs of the population, better respond to research findings, and better meet the needs of the KEM Vadu field unit.

Another tripartite agreement resulted in the construction of KEM Vadu’s hospital and residential buildings. With the state government and central government each committing to bear 30% of the costs, the KEM Vadu Rural hospital was established in the late 80’s. Supportive funding from the government was stopped in 1998, and the hospital has been functioning as a private entity since.

The Shamdasani Foundation, comprised of followers of Shirdi Sai Baba, has begun supporting the hospital, resulting in the renaming of the hospital to the Shirdi Sai Baba hospital.

In addition to a functioning hospital and community outreach, the Vadu site has also been conducting research since the 1980s. The 1980s and 1990s were marked by a focus on mothers and children, with epidemiological and social science research exploring issues such as low birth weight, child survival, maternal mortality, safe abortion and domestic violence.

The portfolio of research projects has expanded greatly since the establishment of the Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) in August 2002. The system records all vital events, such as births, deaths, migration (in and out), pregnancies, marital status, head of household changes, and verbal autopsies to ascertain cause of death.The HDSS now functions as KEM Vadu’s mother project, with other studies benefitting from the wealth of information accrued through continuous surveillance.

KEM Vadu hopes to expand its surveillance to cover a bigger population group, and is also striving to achieve biobank status. By linking stored biological material from the surveillance population to demographic and health data, a biobank would greatly strengthen KEM Vadu’s ability to contribute towards public health research.

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