Special Advocacy Report: Nagaland

Volume 24, Number 9: September 2023
Community health officers and women church leaders at a training session in July. Photo used with permission.

Crucial First Steps: PC awareness and training in Nagaland, India

By Obangjungla, MD
Health Care Administrator, Dimapur, Nagaland, India

In Nagaland state, India, the majority of the population is not yet aware of the vital importance of holistic care for patients suffering from chronic diseases, and palliative care is considered to be a new approach for health care services.

While there are a handful of private sectors offering the service in the urban area, governmental institutions for public health services have yet to incorporate the concept into their infrastructure. As with the introduction of any new ideas into a system, there arises a need for training and imparting the knowledge to health professionals and to the community. However, as of yet, no training curriculum has been activated within the health services department.

Awareness can come first

With the rise in chronic diseases among the population—including cancer, diabetes, and the prevalence of chronic kidney diseases and cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and hypertension—I see the need for and importance of palliative care. More importantly, I felt that it is necessary to bring awareness and introduce the general public to such a concept within health care services, even if it is not yet available within the public health sector.

Training sessions launched

Organizing sessions for training doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, NGOs, volunteers, and other stakeholders is a necessary step in bringing palliative care to the people at large. With this understanding, I voluntarily provided an "Introduction and Training in Palliative Care" session to four groups: medical officers, community health officers, church leaders, and youth leaders. Furthermore, I facilitated "Introduction into Palliative Care" webinars with Pallium India and its founder, Dr. M.R. Rajagopal, for all chief medical officers and medical superintendents in Nagaland, as well as the state drug controller, drug inspectors, and medical officers involved in narcotic drugs supply chain management.

PC unit needed help becoming known

A palliative care unit is operational at Impur Christian Hospital in the Mokokchung district of Nagaland. However, it lacked momentum as people in the community were unaware of what the facility has to offer. In July, I conducted an "Introduction into Palliative Care and Training" session at the hospital. The session was in collaboration with the Ao Baptist Churches Association, which drew community health officers and women church leaders from 15 villages near Impur. In all, 42 people attended, and the receptivity of the event was positive.

Community awareness is an immense task, with a big impact

Villages are a part of a constituency within a district under the state, and targeting the general population to bring awareness is an immense task in itself, yet the resulting outcome has a far deeper impact in creating awareness and movement. Collaborations with church organizations play a vital role, as Nagaland is predominantly a state where a majority of the population adheres to various church denominations.

I continue to look forward to a fruitful collective effort in continuing the endeavor of inculcating the importance of palliative care, and thereby a healthier community.

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