Rural Round-up: WONCA South Asia group launch

It is planned to launch the WONCA Rural South Asia (WoRSA) health group formally during forthcoming WONCA-SAR conference in Feb 2016. Dr John Wynn-Jones, Chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (WWPRP); Dr Pratyush Kumar, inaugural chair of WoRSA and representative of the Spice Route young doctors movement for WONCA South Asia region to WWPRP) and Dr Ranjith Dissanayake are the speakers for the symposium on rural health scheduled on 13 February.


South Asia is predominantly marked by developing economies with considerably poor health infrastructure. Also on various health indices such as maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate, immunization coverage and human development index, South Asian countries feature somewhat at the lowest in the world. A significant rise in out of pocket expenditure has led to serious socioeconomic impacts in rural areas.

Although a majority of the South Asian countries’ populations reside in rural areas, the irony is that most of the development in terms of healthcare is concentrated in urban areas.

The beginning of WONCA Rural South Asia. (WoRSA)

Realizing the need for rural health, it was decided in 2015, during 2nd National family medicine and primary care conference in New Delhi to form a rural health group to advocate and work toward our mission of positive health for all rural people. Dr Raman Kumar president of the AFPI and WONCA world executive member was very supportive and encouraged young doctors to be a part of such initiative.

At the conference, Dr John Wynn-Jones (pictured), chair of WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice, gave a very detailed presentation on rural health which inspired many young doctors. The response was overwhelming as many young doctors volunteered to be a part of this initiative.

The conference helped us to arrive at an understanding to have an active group and encourage young family doctors to join. It was decided that positive health for all rural people would be its main objective. There are various other short and long term goals which we would try to achieve in the future. We are also working on a scientific paper to give an overview of its objectives, challenges, and models to achieve our goals.

Our thoughts were that it would be a great initiative on our part as family physicians to be able to help those who are in serious need of health services. There would be many challenges on the path of this rewarding journey, which we must be ready to face.

Advocacy and awareness towards rural health is the need of the hour. To meet our health goals we also need political commitment and community participation. We also need to understand regional differences of disease epidemiology and to prioritize accordingly. Passion towards rural health usually develops when young doctors are exposed to rural heath during their undergraduate days. Such an interest leads to a life-long commitment to rural health which benefits its growth and development policies.

It is imperative to make our governments understand health related morbidity in terms of economic burden. Economy also gets a boost when people are healthy. Healthy citizens are a boon to any economy in terms of reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, less insurance claims, better quality of life and reduced disability adjusted life years. In many parts of South Asia the focus is on tertiary care, evident by sudden boom of corporate chains of tertiary care hospitals. Primary care services are mostly dependent on public/ government services which are usually inadequate and inefficient in terms of the growing demand of rising population. This is the time for a family physician to make the best use of our specialty and make the world realize the importance of rural health. Cost-effective curative and preventive health services with great deal of awareness, community participation and equitable distribution could be pivotal towards achieving target goals.

We do understand that this is just the beginning and there is a long way to go but with a team effort we will be able to achieve our goals in the shortest possible time. We also need to coordinate with family physicians’ academies /federations /associations of every country in order to request them to nominate and encourage doctors to join this movement and share their innovative ideas.

Dr Pratyush Kumar
Chair WONCA Rural South Asia (WoRSA) group