Public health lessons from the life of Gandhi

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He wasn’t just a freedom fighter. He lived his life as a message for the nation. People become revered when they sacrifice their pleasures for a noble cause. Gandhi sought pleasure in the dream of a free India, a clean India, a land of equality and nobility. While some of his dreams have already turned into reality, some others are on the process of realization. 

His principles were of self-reliance and independence. Today, we learn that the success of a health programme for the community lies in the extent to which the members of the community engage in the programme. The vision is to make a people’s programme.

Community is composed of the individuals who live in it, understood in totality of the ecology wrapping them up. People in a community should not always be perceived as mere beneficiaries of an intervention, though this is common in the initial phases of a government programme. As the intervention expands in terms of geography of coverage and political commitment, community has to acquire a wider role outside the beneficiary compartment. They should be involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages too.

Gandhiji set an example of self-reliance by wearing handwoven khadi. This reflects upon the immaculate treasure trove of resources that can be churned by an efficient health programme. The principle of appropriate technology underlining the concept of primary health care emphasizes upon how an efficient healthcare system utilizes grassroot level technology to improve health outcomes. 

Gandhian philosophy has several lessons for the health administrators. These lessons are of utmost relevance in our country where the basic tenet of economics – scarce resources and perpetual demand – applies perfectly, now more than ever.