Shillong ( Meghalaya ), March 15 : In what may be termed as a first of its kind training for formation of Village Health Councils (VHCs) across Meghalaya, a two day Village Health Council (VHC) training of CDPOs, BPM-MSRLS and BPM-NMH and DCPCs of East Khasi Hills was held from March 14 to 15 at MIIT, here . These trainings are being conducted by the Department of Health & Family Welfare, Meghalaya, supported by the National Health Mission, Meghalaya, in collaboration with Social Welfare and C&RD Departments.
Day 1 of the workshop focused on building Village Health Councils as strong community institutions for initiating community action on health & nutrition, purpose and membership, structure of VHCs as well as group discussions and idea sharing exercises from the participants.
Day 2 of the VHC workshop focused on the collaborative approach of sector teams at the block level and their importance in building VHCs and in solving local health & nutrition challenges. Important success stories and positive outcomes of the sector meetings in improving institutional delivery as well as saving the lives of mothers and infants were also shared with the participants. Sessions on making action plans as per priorities as well as diligently following them up, was also given to the trainees. Following these VHC trainings, the trainers will, in the next few weeks, make a plan for the VHC formation process in their respective blocks.
It may be recalled that the Meghalaya Cabinet on Jan 19 approved and passed the Village Health Council (VHC). The establishment of Village Health Councils (VHCs) in every village and urban localities (Dong level) in the state is envisaged as a key means of improving community engagement in the healthcare system, in order to achieve the goals of the State Health Policy which was approved and passed in 2021. VHCs will be local bodies dedicated to creating an enabling atmosphere for extending the provisions of the MOTHER policy to the last mile, and positively impacting people’s health seeking behavior, while increasing life expectancy of the State as a whole.
Addressing the first batch of the VHC trainees, Mission Director, National Health Mission, Ram Kumar, IAS informed that a training of this caliber was held 15-16 years ago for the formation of Village Employment Councils (VECs) across Meghalaya. VECs have since then played an instrumental role in the MGNREGA uptake. Similarly, Village Health councils (VHCs) are envisioned to bring about a revolutionary change in not only the uptake of public health service by the communities but more so, towards attainment of the objective of increased life expectancy of residents in the State.
He reiterated that communities in Meghalaya played a significant role in mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic through the Community COVID Management Committees (CCMTs). The VHCs will formalize the role of communities in addressing health issues, while also strengthening the state to manage future pandemics or health eventualities.
Addressing the participants, Sampath Kumar, IAS, Principal Health Secretary stated that Village Health Councils will help in bringing positive health seeking behavior and this is a systemic intervention that will greatly help to address the demand and supply side gap in public health service delivery, especially in the last mile of the population. The VHCs will help to generate demand for the health services, in tandem with the government’s efforts to also address supply side challenges. The idea is to bring a sense of ownership among the people about solving problems that are often left unidentified or unaddressed.
He also added that through the VHCs, the State will be able to achieve the overall objective of increasing the lifespan of the residents of Meghalaya, which is currently below the National average. He said that VHCs are a collaborative approach between the departments of Health & Family Welfare, Social Welfare and Community & Rural Development Departments which will also leverage on the existing social capital in the form of Self Help Groups (SHGs), while bringing about more participation from the menfolk in understanding the health issues prevalent in their community, while devising actions to tackle them.
Highlighting the collaborative approach of the VHCs, the CEO of Meghalaya State Rural Livelihood Society (MSRLS), Ramakrishna Chitturi, IAS, stated that health, nutrition and poverty are all interrelated and not isolated issues. Poor health and nutrition is a direct impact of generations of unaddressed poverty and economic disempowerment. The formation of VHCs will not only leverage the role of SHGs and communities in the villages but will also help to address poverty, thereby breaking the vicious cycle of poverty, poor health and nutrition. The overall result will be increased productivity of the future generations, leading to development of the State as a whole.
Director, Social Welfare Department, Dikki D. Shira also addressed the first batch of the VHC trainers in Shillong, while motivating them to take the cause further down to the village level. The two day training of trainers for East Khasi Hills district block officials concluded with the vote of thanks from Dr. L. Challam, Director (MCH&W).
Each VHC training session for the block officials spans up to two days and are being rolled out in a phased manner starting from the East Khasi Hills District which concluded today. This will be followed by extensive VHC training of officials in the coming few weeks in West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, Ri Bhoi, South West Khasi Hills and Eastern West Khasi Hills districts. This will be followed by training to be held in West Garo Hills, South West Garo Hills and South Garo Hills. The first phase of the VHC training will conclude with training in East Garo Hills, North Garo Hills and West Khasi Hills districts. In the first phase of the training, sector teams at the block level are being extensively trained about Village Health Councils (VHCs), their formation as well as their roles and responsibilities.