Bridging the Healthcare Gap in Rural India – Penn Nursing and Sughavazhvu Healthcare

Zeena Johar Presents ‘First Line Disruptive Healthcare Innovations in India’

Released: 11-Apr-2014 3:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
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Newswise — SughaVazhvu is Tamil for ‘happy life’ and the name of a healthcare system that is gaining worldwide recognition for providing accessible and appropriate primary healthcare using innovative epidemiological solutions, alternative human resource models, advanced technological platforms and comprehensive health financing. Zeena Johar, PhD, a key Penn Nursing partner and co-founder of SughaVazhvu Healthcare, presented ‘First Line Disruptive Healthcare Innovations in India’ at the School of Nursing on April 9, 2014. Dr. Johar is president of the IKP Centre for Technologies in Public Health (ICTPH), a non-profit research organization dedicated to improving the health of people living in poverty.

"With 75% of Indian medical practitioners positioned at urban locations and 72% of the Indian population residing in rural locations, there is an overarching need for human resource innovation for delivering health," explained Johar. "This partnership provides an opportunity for ICTPH to unlock and translate the Penn Nursing legacy of pioneering the U.S. nurse practitioner movement for the Indian subcontinent."

According to the ICTPH, India is home to 1.25 billion people and rural care facilities – often the first point of contact for primary care and gatekeepers to secondary care providers – face a near chronic shortage of professional health workers. Health disparities faced by this underserved rural population are not adequately addressed by the government’s public health system. Patient medical records are typically nonexistent and there is little integration between primary and secondary health providers. In a country where nursing potential is undervalued, the notion of utilizing skilled nurse practitioners is gaining momentum.

Penn Nursing’s Assistant Dean for Global Health Affairs, Dr. Marjorie Muecke, has worked directly with ICTPH since 2008 to develop a comprehensive model for providing primary healthcare to rural India. As part of that model, Penn Nursing faculty and ICTPH created India’s first Bridge Training Program to educate and certify AYUSH trained practitioners in evidence-based primary healthcare skills, impacting some 70,000 people through a network of seven rural health centers in Tamil Nadu state of south India. AYUSH is an acronym that refers to the Indian medical system of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy.

Dr. Wendy Grube, PhD, CRNP, Director of the Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program at Penn Nursing, is leading a program to assess competency needs for SughaVazhvu Healthcare providers and is building a curriculum that will emphasize evidence-based practice in assessment, differential point-of-care diagnosis, standardized treatment and follow-up care. In addition to establishing a joint certificate program for alternate healthcare providers, Penn Nursing foresees collaborating with ICTPH to develop a Center of Excellence in Primary Healthcare Education.

Penn Nursing students also benefit from the partnership – those enrolled in "Comparative Health Systems: India (NURS 535)" gain from exposure to the SughaVazhvu model, and consistently report outstanding experiences from their immersion in the history, geography, culture, religions, and healthcare systems of India.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the world’s leading schools of nursing and is ranked the #1 nursing school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Penn Nursing is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of nursing research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse scientists and nurse leaders to meet the health needs of a global society through research, education and practice.


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