A community health scheme is helping the poor of Bangladesh
Monday 15 April 2002, 8.00-8.30pm
After fighting in the liberation war against Pakistan, British trained doctor Quazi Quamruzzaman wanted to do something to help the millions of people in Bangladesh living below the poverty line. Health care is not free so many go untreated even though dysentery, diabetes and arsenic poisoning are rife. So he helped to set up a community based health scheme which is now able to treat thousands of patients.
We may grumble about our own health service but in Bangladesh there is only one doctor for every 13,000 patients - and many of these are not paid so, understandably, they don't bother to turn up to work. With such a poor health system, only the rich have access to the sort of medical attention that people in Britain take for granted. For everyone else there are no medical facilities at all. For millions living in many districts their problems are made worse by ground water contaminated with a arsenic concentrations far above acceptable levels.
But the picture is not all bad. "It's My Story" follows the work of two British trained Bangladeshi doctors - Dr Mahmuder Rahman and Prof Quazi Quamruzzaman - who have devised a healthcare system inspired by our own NHS. Both worked extensively in hospitals in the UK but always harboured a dream of returning to their homeland.
Health workers in Pabna with (inset) Prof Quazi Quamruzzaman
Typically, they approach a village in the countryside and propose a deal: if every household in a community of two to three thousand families pays 10 takas (equivalent to 12 pence) per month, they get a qualified doctor and several health workers dedicated to their needs.
About 70 communities have signed up so far but there are many thousands more that the team want to help. The programme follows the two doctors as they visit villages within the primary healthcare system to see just how much difference it's made and as they reach out to new villages.
Presenter: Helen Sewell is an experienced radio presenter and producer in the Radio Science Unit. She won the British Science Writers Award for radio production in 2000 for 'Armenicum' about a controversial so-called cure for AIDS.