There is a cure for almost every medical condition. But how do health officials tackle superstitions?
With only 30 per cent of womenfolk living in rural areas turning up for immunisation programmes, state health officials have conceded that superstitions are keeping them away. And that is making it difficult for them to administer treatment or spread awareness among them.
For instance, many expecting mothers are afraid of taking the tetanus toxoid vaccine as they believe that it will lead to abortion or infertility, which can lead to being ostracised from society.
Such beliefs, health workers have found, were prevalent among residents of Sahebganj, Koderma, Gumla, Godda, Garwha and Latehar districts. However, an NGO, USAID, under its programme Vistaar, is working towards improving reproductive and child health in these regions through survival programmes, in association with state departments.
R Choudhary, the team leader associated with the project, agreed that superstitious beliefs were adversely affecting healthcare programmes. "We have been working in the rural healthcare sector for the past six months and so far the results haven't been very encouraging," she rued.
Many tribal women refused to take iron folic acid tablets. "Around 80 per cent of women suffer from anaemia but they refuse to take pills as they feel it would make them weaker," she said.
Immunisation of infants and children was another battle for health officials. "There are limited health services available. Women and children have to suffer due to low literacy rate and lack of decision-making powers. Besides, the infant mortality rate (IMR) is quite high. For example, in Sahebganj it is as high as 147 per 1,000 births," she said.
High death rate is mainly due to low birth weight, lack of basic knowledge among mothers, poverty, and inaccessibility to healthcare facilities and infectious diseases such as malaria and kala-azar.
Besides, nurses and midwives have to fight superstitions too. "We want to improve access to quality maternal and new-born care, improve nutrition and treat infectious diseases," the team leader said.
If only patients could hold on to this belief.
Ranchi, Aug. 5: Telegraph