Home Herbal Gardens - A Sustainable Strategy For Primary Health Care

Author

Dr. P. Venkatasubramanian, Mr. G. Hariramamurthi, Dr. P.M. Unnikrishnan and Mr. Darshan Shankar, Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), 74/2, Jarakabande Kaval, Attur Post. (via) Yelahanka, Bangalore-560 064, India.

Proceeding

1st International Conference & Exhibition on Women's Health & Asian Traditional (WHAT) Medicine

Date

23/8/2005

Keyword

Traditional Medicines, home herbal garden programme health care, methodology

Abstract

Introduction WHO has estimated that between 60-80% of the population of developing countries rely on Traditional Medicines for Primary Health Care needs1. Main reasons are inaccessibility to and cost of allopathic treatment and medicines. This being the case, the governments of these countries need to relook at their strategy for ‘health for all’. The strategy should include developing practical and sustainable solutions to strengthen, improve and promote cost-effective and safe medicines that are based on active local health cultures. This would ensure self-reliance of the masses as far as Primary Health Care (PHC) is concerned. Research Approach & Findings Over the past decade, FRLHT has designed and implemented a Home Herbal Garden (HHG) programme across three south Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Saplings of a set of 20 medicinal plants from 12-15 species that are useful for around 15-20 PHC related complaints are grown as a package and sold by Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) to rural households. WSHGs are trained by FRLHT in raising, distributing and demonstrating the use of the plants for various conditions. The selection of plants suitable for a village is done through participatory rural appraisal. Firstly the PHC complaints faced by the community are prioritized by them followed by documentation and assessment of the most effective, locally used herbal remedies for the selected conditions. Each plant mentioned in the list is also assessed for its safety and efficacy by a panel consisting of local healers, traditional and modern physicians2. The top 15-20 plants from such a list are used for the HHG programme. The list of plants thus drawn is eco system-specific. More than 6000 villages and hamlets have been covered under this programme; 145,000 Home Herbal gardens have so far been promoted by FRLHT since 1995. Through impact study conducted by FRLHT, it was demonstrated that Home Herbal Garden programme has succeeded not only in increasing awareness about medicinal plants through a people-to-people process but has also reduced the cost burden on a rural family incurred due to common ailments such as cold, cough, fever, diarrhoea, nutritional deficiency etc. The average cost of outside treatment (private) incurred by the adopters of the Home Herbal Garden programme was 1/5th that of non-adopters3. Rural women with gynaecological problems such as white discharge and dysmenorrhoea particularly benefited from the programme since they otherwise were shying away from approaching male doctors at Primary Health Care centres.  The study used a procedure of stratified random sampling where one revenue block from every district covered during the programme was sampled.  5 % of HHG adopters and an equal number of non-adopters were sampled from 5% of villages in each of the blocks. Conclusion Apart from social, health and economic (in terms of cost savings) benefits, the Home Herbal Garden Programme based on local health traditions can also contribute to Income Generation among rural women through raising and supplying of seedlings and saplings. The paper will discuss the need and strategy to be followed for promotion of the Home Herbal Garden programme mentioning the methodology, findings and learning experiences of FRLHT in terms of the impact on communities studied