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Ensuring Health and Wellbeing of Mothers and Babies: Aastrika Foundation

Anjali Hans

Societal

Kusum is a 23-year-old woman living in rural Nainital, India. She is pregnant with her first child. The nearest hospital is in Haldwani, 32 km from Kusum’s home. Just as she and her siblings were, her child will be born at home. Pregnancy is a confusing, painful and scary experience for her because of inadequate access to rights-based and personalised reproductive healthcare. 

Kusum’s experience is shared by countless women in India. In an under-capacitated public healthcare system, women face not only the challenges of scant information and too much or too little medical intervention, but also traumatic birthing experiences, some even leading to death.

Aastrika Foundation envisions a future in which every woman is treated with respect and dignity during pregnancy and childbirth, and the right treatment is provided at the right time. Aastrika Foundation aims to increase access to Respectful Maternal Care for 25 million women by 2025 with a two-pronged approach: A Societal Platform for Healthcare called ‘Aastrika Sphere’, which is aimed at capacity building of healthcare professionals, and promoting and supporting the establishment of a professional cadre of midwives

For every million births in India, the number of maternal deaths is 103 and the infant mortality rate is 30 ( measured in deaths per 1,000 live births). While these numbers are harrowing in themselves, what is even more troubling is that 99% of these maternal deaths in childbirth are avoidable. The leading causes of mortality range from medical causes such as severe bleeding and infections or complications during childbirth; socio-economic causes such as poverty, distance to healthcare facilities, lack of access to information, to indignity and abuse faced during in-facility childbirth.

Aastrika Foundation aims to bridge the most glaring gap in building a robust healthcare system for women and children, that of agency women exercise over their bodies and of healthcare professionals in being equipped to provide bias-free interventions. Click To Tweet

The Aastrika Midwifery Centre is a Centre of Excellence that serves to provide proof points of the required and recommended interventions in maternal healthcare grounded in an informed and collaborative approach. Aastrika Sphere breaks barriers of geography through its digital platform to ensure that healthcare workers can be trained and upskilled and mothers-to-be and their families can be educated and empowered to demand better health outcomes irrespective of where they are. It is a shared learning platform where individuals can access a library of e-learning resources and organisations can provide high-quality training and skilling content. It is an inclusive, open, and interactive platform that brings together various ecosystem actors to build the capacity of maternal healthcare workers of all cadres such as doctors, nurses, and midwives. To address the problem of an overworked system, the platform will eventually have credentialing in order to build a ready talent pool to fill gaps of capacity in the system. Imagining a solution at scale to a problem like maternal healthcare will be possible only if we can enhance the system exponentially through collaboration and co-creation by various ecosystem actors.

Aastrika Foundation believes the collective effort of empowered communities can ensure the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of mothers and infants.

Learn more about Societal Thinking here.