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Who are ASHA workers?

Context:

The World Health Organisation has recognised the country’s 10.4 lakh ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers as ‘Global Health Leaders’ for their efforts in connecting the community to the government’s health programmes.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who are ASHA workers?
  2. How many ASHAs are there across the country?
  3. What do ASHA workers do?
  4. How much are ASHA workers paid?

Who are ASHA workers?

  • ASHA workers are volunteers from within the community who are trained to provide information and aid people in accessing benefits of various healthcare schemes of the government.
  • They act as a bridge connecting marginalised communities with facilities such as primary health centres, sub-centres and district hospitals.
  • The role of these community health volunteers under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was first established in 2005.
  • ASHAs are primarily married, widowed, or divorced women between the ages of 25 and 45 years from within the community.
  • They must have good communication and leadership skills; should be literate with formal education up to Class 8, as per the programme guidelines.

How many ASHAs are there across the country?

  • The aim is to have one ASHA for every 1,000 persons or per habitation in hilly, tribal or other sparsely populated areas.
  • There are around 10.4 lakh ASHA workers across the country, with the largest workforces in states with high populations – Uttar Pradesh (1.63 lakh), Bihar (89,437), and Madhya Pradesh (77,531).
  • Goa is the only state with no such workers, as per the latest National Health Mission data available from September 2019.

What do ASHA workers do?

  • They go door-to-door in their designated areas creating awareness about basic nutrition, hygiene practices, and the health services available.
  • They focus primarily on ensuring that women undergo ante-natal check-up, maintain nutrition during pregnancy, deliver at a healthcare facility, and provide post-birth training on breast-feeding and complementary nutrition of children.
  • They also counsel women about contraceptives and sexually transmitted infections.
  • ASHA workers are also tasked with ensuring and motivating children to get immunised.
  • Other than mother and child care, ASHA workers also provide medicines daily to TB patients under directly observed treatment of the national programme.
  • They are also tasked with screening for infections like malaria during the season.
  • They also provide basic medicines and therapies to people under their jurisdiction such as oral rehydration solution, chloroquine for malaria, iron folic acid tablets to prevent anaemia, and contraceptive pills.
  • The health volunteers are also tasked with informing their respective primary health centre about any births or deaths in their designated areas.

How much are ASHA workers paid?

  • Since they are considered “volunteers”, governments are not obligated to pay them a salary. And, most states don’t.
  • Their income depends on incentives under various schemes that are provided when they, for example, ensure an institutional delivery or when they get a child immunised.
    • All this adds up to only between Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 a month.
  • “Her work would be so tailored that it does not interfere with her normal livelihood,” the National Health Mission states.

-Source: Indian Express

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September 2022
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