Excursion to Aligarh

A Woman and her son working in a field beside the rural health clinic

I’m going out of order, but I’ve skipped a few key trips, so here is the story of my third week in India:

The week after our visit to Agra, our teachers accompanied us on an excursion to a small city/large town in Uttar Pradesh to see government healthcare in action.

Aligarh is not in most guidebooks, and is not exactly a tourist destination. It is a mostly Muslim community, and far less glamorous than Delhi. There is a high proportion of impoverished people living in and around Aligarh, but there is also a good university (Aligarh Muslim University) making it the ideal place to observe government healthcare in real life for most North Indians. Our visit, unlike later trips would be, was not flashy or exciting, but looking back it has been really helpful to experience healthcare delivery in action on the ground.

Women standing beside an HIV-awareness sign at a women's health clinic

They say seeing is believing, and this was surely the case in Aligarh. I had heard for the past two and a half years in my classes what the healthcare sector is like in the developing world, and i had heard for weeks what it is like in India. In Aligarh, however, I got to see it firsthand, and I might have learned as much there as I have in all of my classes put together. We visited a medical college and its teaching hospital, where we observed the out-patient clinic for the departments in which we were most interested; visited primary, secondary, and tertiary level rural clinics; met with Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs, village women who are trained to supervise the growth of children from 0-5 years); interacted with college students; and had a tour of an Unani (traditional) hospital. These visits were each unique and completely new experiences, and I feel like I have a much better understanding of healthcare delivery in the developing world, especially rural areas.