Tribal Health Initiative
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Tribal Health Initiative (THI) is a non profit organisation located in the Sittilingi valley in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu. It works for the welfare of the local community who are predominantly Malavasi tribals. THI was founded by Dr. Regi George and Dr. Lalitha Regi in 1993. As of 2010 it has grown to include a 24-bed hospital with a labour room, neonatal unit, operation theatre, diagnostic laboratory and imaging facilities, a community health outreach programme, an organic farming initiative and a craft initiative which aims to revive traditional Lambadi embroidery.
Tribal Health Initiative was founded in 1993 by a young doctor couple originally from Kerala, Dr. Regi George, an anesthesiologist, and Dr. Lalitha Regi, a gynecologist who were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and the vision of Health For All. They are fondly called Gi and Tha by THI staff and the local community. The project started off as a mud and brick hut from where Dr. Regi and Dr. Lalitha ran an out patient clinic in the mornings. The hut doubled up as a labour room or emergency room when required. A few years later Action Aid funded the construction of a hospital building consisting of an operation theatre, labour room and inpatient ward.
In 1996, THI started training local tribal girls as Health Workers who currently form the backbone of the hospital. They are able to diagnose and treat common problems, assist in the operating theatre, conduct deliveries, care for inpatients and go out to the villages for antenatal and child health checkups. THI also has a second group of older women called Health Auxiliaries who have been chosen by their respective communities. They live in the villages and come to Sittilingi every month for reporting and training. They offer advice on good nutrition, hygiene, birthing practices and simple ailments. They host the field clinics for pregnant mothers and children. They also ensure that all babies born at home are seen within the first week by the Health Workers. Many of them are now the key stone for community activities like farming and craft and act as facilitators for all community development work.
In 2000, following an internal review THI decided to further its vision of health, to encompass areas such as education, livelihoods and basic community needs. Over the last few years new initiatives have emerged such as the Organic Farming Initiative and the Tribal Craft Initiative.
- Tribal Health Initiative website. Available at http://www.tribalhealth.org [Accessed on 18 March 2010]
- Sivanand M. (2001) The Good Doctors of Sittilingi Reader's Digest September 2001 issue
- www.tribalhealth.org - THI website