Research Update

Research Update

Poor suffer from lack of healthcare information

Our News BureauHong Kong

Poor and often illiterate populations may be saddled with more health problems simply because they are not aware of public health services that are available, a study in India suggested. Underlining the need to improve the delivery of health resources, researchers at the World Bank and United States carried out a study to aggressively inform villagers in northern Uttar Pradesh state about services that were available to them. After a year, they found that these villages were using markedly more services, such as vaccinations and prenatal examinations, than villages not involved in the study. “The finding could be an overlooked, relatively easy way to boost health and well-being in developing countries around the world,” the researchers wrote in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers randomly selected 105 village clusters in Uttar Pradesh. Over a period of a year, four to six public meetings were held in each cluster to give out information on entitled health and educational services.

Uttar Pradesh is a state where one-third of the population subsists on less than $90 per person each year. Less than 60 percent of the population is literate, so the researchers had to think of ways to inform people who couldn’t read. Recorded messages about public services were played at the meetings and villagers could ask questions. Topics included prenatal and delivery care for pregnant women, vaccines for children, and information about public schools. “Our hope was that if village residents knew what their rights were, they would be more likely to demand them from service providers,” said Madhav Goyal at the John Hopkins School of Medicine. By the end of the campaign, villages involved in the study reported 30 percent more prenatal examinations, 27 percent more tetanus vaccinations, and 25 percent more infant vaccinations compared with villages that were not involved.