A quiz: what country has 1200 neurologists to serve a population of 1.2 billion people?
Dr. Maria Barretto of India described to us what the challenge of Parkinson’s Disease in her country is like. With no government funding and a culture having difficulty coming to grips with a disease which is not divine punishment, the odds are long.
Instead of looking at the walls built up to their task, Dr. Baretto and her handful-sized staff decided to charge straight in. Since access to specialized care for the majority of Indians is non-existent, India’s Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Society has turned to community health workers and begun a grassroots effort to raise awareness and help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Ingenious solutions to problems of mobility such as using a rope attached to a wall to get out of bed and modifying a wheelchair to have a permanent table are just two of the many approaches they have developed.
The approach in India raises a question for us: could improvements in accessing care and assessing Parkinson’s symptoms be addressed through community nursing? This method of healthcare delivery used to be widespread in the Western world but has largely disappeared. Perhaps the time is ripe to bring it back, especially in our rural areas. India’s example is living proof that a lot can be accomplished with few resources; a lesson we in the West may do well to examine.