‘Smile on Wheels’: How Smile Foundation is Providing Primary Healthcare to People in Rural India
Rural healthcare is one of the greatest challenges faced by the Health Ministry of India. More than 70% of the population resides in rural areas where health facilities are at an all-time low and mortality rates due to the burden of diseases are at peak. To govern the spread of diseases and condense the growing rates of mortality owing to lack of adequate healthcare facilities, various non-profit and non-governmental organizations are coming forth, both individually and together, to improve the conditions of healthcare in rural areas where implementation of these changes is the need of the hour.
One such national level development organization is Smile Foundation. Since its commencement, in 2002, this non-profit has been steadily benefiting over 750000 kids and their families each year through the means of 350 welfare initiatives in over 25 states across the country. The core areas of focus for Smile Foundation include healthcare, child education, women empowerment, and youth employment. Most of their initiatives like Swabhiman – women empowerment, Smile Twin e-Learning Programme – youth employability, Mission Education – child education, and Child for Child Programme – child health and development, address problems prevailing at grassroots-level.
One of the most impactful initiatives led by Smile is the ‘Smile on Wheels’ Programme. Realizing the healthcare scenario in India, where due to lack of funds, people avoid necessary treatments for basic ailments and even life-threatening diseases, Smile Foundation introduced Smile on Wheels in 2006. This project was designed to meet the primary healthcare needs of underprivileged communities from both urban and rural areas. Since its launch, the team of Smile of Wheels has ensured reaching the doorsteps of people living in unserved or underserved areas where there’s major deprivation of both government healthcare facilities as well as adequate medical equipments for treatments.
Through the means of GPS-enabled mobile vans, presence of doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians, and necessary equipments; an area covering 25 kilometres from the centre is covered on a regular basis. During emergencies, the same van is used as an ambulance and referral clinic. These remote vans are stationed at the urban centres, mostly with a static hospital that functions as a referral medical centre. To add to these benefits, the volunteers of Smile Foundation go door-to-door, notifying slum dwellers about the van’s upcoming visit, and when and how they can avail services.
Even though Smile on Wheels Programme was first launched in 2006, it became completely operational only in 2011. Some of the facilities provided include X-ray, BP examination, first aid, OPD, immunizations, ante-natal and post-natal services, diagnosis of pregnancy complications, minor surgery, Vit-A prophylaxis, distribution of Iron folic tablets, and treatment for mal-nutrient patients. Besides this, special counselling sessions are held for pregnant women from time to time to educate them on newborn care, pregnancy diets, breastfeeding, family planning, and immunisation.
To date, over 600000 people from 585 remote villages and slums have received their healthcare facilities through 39 operational projects. Out of the total beneficiaries covered during the reporting period, 70% were mainly women and children.
Not only this, through other projects aimed at empowering the poor, educating children, and promoting employment, Smile continues to contribute towards the advancement of people from rural India, mainly; women and children.
If you are one of those who’d like to make a difference, invest your free time volunteering for NGOs of any field. Here’s how you can join Smile Foundation:
Do your bit, as you can, as you want!
To volunteer and to be an active member of the organization, visit Smile Foundation’s website and check their “Volunteer” page. You can sign up for the “Individual Registration” form and feed in the required details. Expect to be contacted soon after the online form has been submitted and verified.
There’s no greater joy than extending a helping hand. While our professional, personal, and social life keeps us occupied, we can all spare some time occasionally to do something for good.
Akanksha Shukla is a content strategist, writer by the day and reader by the night- all with the trusted companionship of coffee!