Gadchiroli June 27 (District correspondent) Noted social workers Dr Abhay Bang and Dr Rani Bang, directors of SEARCH (Society for Education Action and Research in Community Health) have been honoured with ‘Rajarshi Shahu’ award by Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Memorial Trust Kolhapur today for their pioneering services in community healthcare.
The prestigious award was presented at the hands of Shrimant Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj. Mr. Deepak Dada Kesarkar, Chamdrakant Dada Patil, Minister were prominently present. The award included a cash of Rs. 1 lakh, memento and certificate of honour.
The Bang couple founded SEARCH, a voluntary organisation, in the tribal district Gadchiroli and have spent nearly four decades living and working amongst tribal people seeking to make health care available to them.
The ideal of self-dependence led Dr Bang to coin the term ‘Arogya Swaraj’, realised within the community. Their pioneering research on health problems in rural and tribal populations, in women’s health and interventions in health care such as treatment of childhood pneumonia, home based new-born care and reduction of alcohol and tobacco are acknowledged nationally and globally.
Dr Abhay Bang was raised in Sevagram, Wardha in the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. His father Thakurdas Bang was a freedom fighter while his mother was the principal of the school started by Gandhiji. Rani Bang comes from Chandrapur. They studied medicine together in Nagpur. After getting their MDs in medicine and gynaecology at Nagpur respectively, and Masters in Public Health at the world-famous Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, they returned to India in 1986.
Their model of community-based primary healthcare is backed by research now globally recognised. The Lancet called them ‘pioneers in community health care’.
The Bangs developed a new approach named Home based new-born Care (HBNC). The home-based care to mother- new-born- child was delivered by training local women called Arogyadoot from within the village.
The intervention led to sharp decline in child mortality in the experimental 39 villages, reaching in 2003 on par with statistics in India now 20 years later.
This model of HBNC was later accepted and implemented by the government of India as the ASHA programme, with 10 lakh workers primary health care givers across all Indian states.
The SEARCH’s Maa Danteshwari Hospital for tribal today is an oasis of top-notch medical care at the campus, ‘Shodhagram’ located in the forest of Gadchiroli where the couple has been rendering services.
SEARCH’s programme Muktipath, started in collaboration with the state government and the people of Gadchiroli works to create mass awareness, mobilisation of village community to implement ban on alcohol, tobacco and deaddiction.
Government of India appointed a national Expert Committee on Tribal Health under the chairmanship of Dr Abhay Bang which has prepared a road map of health care for the 11 crore tribal people in India.
Continuing the glorious family tradition, their two sons Dr Anand and Amrut, and daughter in law Dr Arati, have joined their mission in Gadchiroli.
Drs Abhay and Rani Bang have received nearly 80 honours and awards, including the Padmashree by the President of India, Maharashtra Bhushan, Global Health Heroes, by the TIME magazine besides 4 honorary doctorates.