Novartis visits ASTHA project: insights into improving healthcare in Bangladesh

Initial vocational education and training
Isabel Dalli, Global Head of Sponsoring & Donations, Novartis visited ASTHA project activities in Patuakhali and Dhaka from 19 to 22 June. She was accompanied by Eliane Herrmann, Head of Development Programme, Swisscontact, Mujibul Cezanne Hasan, Country Director, Swisscontact Bangladesh and ASTHA team. The purpose of the visit was to observe the ongoing project activities and to interact with the local and national stakeholders of the project. This visit is important to assess the progress of the ASTHA project in improving healthcare in rural Bangladesh and to set the strategic framework for Phase III of the project.

The visit began by observing a scientific seminar organised by one of the local Community Paramedic Training Institutes (CPTIs) of Patuakhali to provide continuing medical education (CME) to community paramedics. After the seminar, the visitors interacted with the owner and key staff of the training institute. Further discussions revolved around the possibility of integrating these scientific seminars into the awareness raising efforts of the pharmaceutical companies, so that the community paramedics (CPs) can continuously update their knowledge and skills.

The visitors observed the community paramedics in action at their dispensaries set up at different locations in Patuakhali. Through this first-hand experience, the visitors were able to witness the Community Paramedics' efforts to ensure access to quality health services for the local community. They also saw how private sector partners such as Zaynax Health are working with the community paramedics to provide digital healthcare solutions to the rural population.

Opening up huge opportunities in rural healthcare

Another key highlight of the visit was observing the health camp organised by the local Community Paramedic Association. Meeting with the association helped the visitors understand the need to promote the community paramedic profession nationwide.

The team also met with several key stakeholders in Dhaka. Meetings with the State Medical Faculty (SMF) and members of the Community Paramedic Training Institute Alliance were important to understand the future custodianship of the Community Paramedic Course. A visit to the RADDA Community Paramedic Training Institute allowed the visitors to observe and discuss the prospects of the e-learning platform in enhancing the learning experience of the students.

Isabel Dalli was impressed with the project's progress and prospects. She believes that empowering community paramedics can open up immense opportunities in rural health care. The visit ended with a de-briefing and a vote of thanks.

This project is financed by Novartis, the Evi Diethelm Winteler Stiftung, and the Laguna Foundation, among other donors. It is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.

Initial vocational education and training
High-quality healthcare services in rural areas
Achieving Sustainability Towards Healthcare Access (ASTHA) aims at contributing to the development and expansion of sustainable and high-quality healthcare at the community level by training young adults (50% women) from seven rural districts as skilled health workers. The ASTHA-project will improve the health and living conditions of the local...