Maharashtra woman scientist shows way to rural health

March 8th, 2008 - 7:48 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) She completed her master’s degrees in public health from the US-based Johns Hopkins University and returned to her home district, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, to serve tribal women and reduce a whopping infant mortality rate there. Twenty-two-years later, President Pratibha Patil conferred the National Award for Women’s Development through Application of Science and Technology on Rani Bang in a special ceremony here Saturday, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

She was honoured for her outstanding and pioneering contribution on improving women’s health in rural India through an innovative and powerful approach of research with the people and for the people.

Bang and her husband Abhay, another Johns Hopkins post-graduate, have spearheaded the development of a comprehensive village health care programme that has now become a nationally and internationally acclaimed model.

She empowered rural women to take care of their community’s health and has reduced the infant mortality rate in Gadchiroli by over 75 percent. From 121 child deaths for every 1,000 live births two decades ago, she has managed to bring the rate down to 30 now.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said Rani Bang exemplifies an amalgamation of “idealism, social service and scientific research”.

She has made a landmark contribution to improving women’s lives - as a gynaecologist, as a research scientist and as a social activist, the minister added.

After returning from the US, she founded the voluntary organisation Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (Search) in 1986 in Gadchiroli.

The couple lives and works with people in 150 villages in the district to provide community-based healthcare and conduct research. They have established the now famous community health care and research centre, Shodhagram, in the area.

“We are happy to get this award and it’s a recognition of many women who are working with us,” Rani said.

She subsequently trained rural women as village-level health workers and advocated the need for a comprehensive reproductive health care package for rural women in India.

The Time newsmagazine featured her on a special issue on “How to save a Life”.

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