The world is increasingly becoming a smaller place, not only because of rise of sophisticated technology, but also because of the rapid population growth. Among the notable countries that have raised eyebrows in population explosion is India. According to the 2011 population census, India’s population now stands at a whopping 1.21 billion – “more people now live in India than in the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh combined”. This phenomenal population increase demands an equal and concerted scale-up of healthcare service delivery with a focus on improving the quality of life of the Indian people.
Among the organizations that have been on the forefront of empowering the people of India from both the community and policy perspectives is the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI-India). VHAI is the core of Health Promotion activities in India. All projects are designed using an integrated health promotion approach, through a social determinants lens which looks at health holistically. VHAI advocates for people-centered policies for health planning and programme management in India. They support innovative health and development projects at the grassroots and encourage active participation of the people. Through their work in New Delhi, VHAI has enabled poor communities to have access to clean and safe water, to learn about the proper use of toilets and hygiene with their target groups being school-children. The children have also formed their own community forums where they address issues of health that are affecting them. Because of the community investment and inclusion of community members at all levels, there is a strong sustainability component of the programs initiated.
Health and development are closely linked, and active community action participation plays a key role in achieving its goals. Empowerment at the grassroots level through advocacy and education are seen as fundamental to making sustainable changes.
Indeed VHAI’s efforts to make an impact at and from the community level to the global level have not gone without notice. Among notable initiatives that VHAI is credited with includes facilitating the setting up of an Independent Commission on Health in India with the aim of assessing the current health status and problems in health care delivery in the sub-continent.