Rani Bang's work in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra has changed the face of the tribal pockets in the area. Where healthcare was once nonexistent, there are now a friendly hospital, experienced healthworkers, and trained traditional birth attendants. Rani also worked actively towards reviving traditional medicine, realizing that community mobilization combined with the optimum use of existing facilities is the only way to solve the crises in the interior areas, largely overlooked by policy and planners alike.
Rani Bang comes from a family with a strong commitment to medical and public service. In the early 1980s, she and her husband did not have to think too hard on their decision to work in the internal tribal pockets of Maharashtra. They set up the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (Search) to provide community healthcare to the people in Gadchiroli district, an almost entirely tribal district. It has abysmally low literacy levels and practically no infrastructural facilities. Healthcare was a distant dream. The Bangs have built a friendly tribal hospital, and have trained village healthworkers and traditional birth attendants in 50 villages to manage reproductive and child health problems. Rani works on healthcare delivery and community medicine, with special emphasis on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. The distinguishing feature of her work in the area is her responsiveness to what the people of the area identify as priority areas of concern. She uses rigorous research to understand the needs of the people, and then uses community-based solutions to solve these problems. The result of Rani's two decades of work is that the region today has improved healthcare facilities and has undertaken pioneering work in community medicine. The most heartening feature of this effort is the revival of traditional medicine. It is Rani's endeavor to also utilize, and improve upon, existing government medical facilities through community mobilization and awareness. Due to Search's efforts, the mortality rate for infants up to five years has dropped from 120 out of 1000 in 1995 to 30 out of 1000 in 1998. Rani has devoted her entire life to this cause, challenging government officials and the powerful people in the region in the course of her work.
Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (Search)