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Over 350 million people in India live in poverty and many of those people lack access to adequate reproductive and child health (RCH) services. In 1999, Technical Assistance, Inc. (TAI) in collaboration with MSH began piloting the Local Initiatives Program in India (India-LIP) to expand reproductive and child health services to low-income, under-served families.
A guiding principle of India-LIP is that the effectiveness, quality, and sustainability of any health initiative depend on the direct involvement of local community members at every level. Inspired by the sustained success of MSH’s Local Initiatives Program in Bangladesh, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided funding for TAI and MSH to adapt their unique approach to the Indian context.
TAI and MSH have designed pilot programs in three distinct geographic areas-urban slums in Calcutta, a rural region in northwest India, and a remote mountainous area at the base of the Himalayas. The common elements used to implement the program at the three sites include: community volunteers; community health committees with official policymaker involvement; implementation of an RCH package; adaptation of LIP Bangladesh training and management tools; community mapping of RCH needs; and a new focus on initiatives to reach adolescents.
With vital community support, the program has already begun to improve reproductive and child health care in its target regions. Local women, trained to deliver information and basic services to their neighbors, are achieving new status in their communities and motivating others to do the same. Private physicians are lending their expertise at nominal rates, participating in community trainings, workshops, and discussion sessions. Elected officials and religious leaders are raising money, organizing satellite health clinics, and encouraging people to get involved.