Odisha doctor breaks down all family planning barriers and myths – The New Indian Express

In a country where conversations about sex and pregnancy, childbirth and abortion, and women’s health in general, remain taboo even in metropolises, a doctor from Kalahandi district in Odisha is raising awareness of the benefits of planning family.

In his quarter of a century in the region – since 1996, when he took up his post as a surgical assistant – Dr Sadanand Panigrahi (58) has succeeded in breaking down all kinds of barriers to educate locals about the need for small families.

Currently working as a Senior Obstetrics and Gynecology Consultant at Dharmagarh Sub-divisional Hospital, Kalahandi, he has conducted 30,009 family planning surgeries in accordance with the National Family Protection Program “Happy Little Family” standard. family.

He was commended by Odisha CM Naveen Pattnaik in 2014 for his contribution, in addition to being awarded several times by the State Department of Health and Family Welfare. He was also honored by USAID Delhi as a “champion family planning service provider”.

What makes Panigrahi’s achievement remarkable is not only the high number of operations, but also the fact that these procedures were made accessible in one of the most remote regions of the country, where educational institutions and health are hard to come by.

India launched its national family planning program in 1952, and Panigrahi is among those ensuring its implementation in a region largely dominated by rural and tribal populations. Kalahandi has in the past seen deaths from starvation and poverty.

In 2016, the district made national headlines because of the heartbreaking story of a tribal man – Dana Majhi – who had to walk over 10 km carrying his wife’s corpse due to lack of availability. of a vehicle.

Of the 13 blocks in the district, Panigrahi managed to bring about noticeable change in at least 10, aided by the district administration. Despite the long distances, he visits local health centers every week to let people know him. For him, the medical part of the process comes much later.

He relies on uplifting conversations to break the ice between himself and the villagers. “It was important for me to gain their trust first, and that would only happen if they saw me regularly. Each block is around 40-50 km from Dharmagarh where I am posted. As the roads are good , I drive by myself. I like it,” he says.

The doctor says transportation continues to be a challenge in some parts of the region. Until 2008, Panigrahi recalls, villagers had to take the state bus, which was the only mode of transport at the time, to Thuamul Rampur, the southernmost block of the district, where he had to camp for three to four days to conduct operations.

“The terrain is mountainous and there was only one bus. It ran between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., so I had to make arrangements for food and accommodation not only for me, but also for the patients who would travel 20 to 25 km to take advantage of it. There are now more government and private buses on the road, but it is still a challenge,” he says.

Erratic electricity was another problem he faced until 2002, after which inverters were installed. “Most of the time there was no electricity, so we used generators and headlights during the operations,” he says.

As Panigrahi spoke to the women, he realized that most wanted no more than two children, but the inaccessibility, especially in the 90s, was pitiful. “During counseling to women, I observed that most of them wanted to limit their family to two children, but due to lack of services in nearby health centers, bad counseling, misconceptions , low participation of men, they have not been able to take advantage of the said advantages,” he says.

There were also doubts about the safety of the proceedings, which he worked hard to alleviate. “I worked with ASHA and Anganwadi workers to educate them on the procedures in their local language. to have financial security,” he said.

Villagers are told about both temporary contraceptives – like condoms, pills – and permanent options like female sterilization and vasectomy. Panigrahi says vasectomy acceptance is negligible, but women’s outlook has changed.

A strong believer in leading by example, Panigrahi is certainly proud of the change he has brought about, but he admits that healthcare in the region still has a long way to go. The good doctor hopes his efforts will inspire his colleagues to continue their good work.

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