Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH), Gadchiroli, Maharashtra

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SEARCH was founded in Gadchiroli district in 1986. It is inspired by the social philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. Its founders, Dr Abhay Bang and Dr Rani Bang, received their medical training in India and their public health training at Johns Hopkins University.

The organization’s three missions are; i) providing health care to local populations, ii) training and education in health, and iii) research to help shape health policies.

SEARCH emphasizes that field research should be conducted with the full participation of local communities. Its Community Health Action and Research Approach highlights the importance of living close to, and listening carefully to the health concerns of local communities. Research and solution building activities should then be structured around central health concerns as voiced by community members themselves. Solutions to health problems are tested through rigorous field-based trials, and then published for scrutiny by the scientific community and policy makers.

SEARCH conducted a field trial in Gadchiroli on home-based neonatal care from 1993 to 1998. SEARCH trained village health workers to make home visits and manage birth asphyxia, premature birth or low birthweight, hypothermia, breast-feeding problems, in addition to diagnosing and treating neonatal sepsis (septicaemia, meningitis & pneumonia). 39 Intervention and 47 control villages were selected in Gadchiroli district, with the study results demonstrating that SEARCH’s home-based newborn care (HBNC) approach reduced neonatal and infant mortality by nearly 50%.

SEARCH maintains a comprehensive Demographic Surveillance System in Gadchiroli, which records all births, deaths, migrations (in and out), and marriages in the area. Its activities have now expanded into the areas of non-communicable diseases, tobacco and alcohol consumption, and adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

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