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Focusing
on a positive impact

Interview 2018 J&J OYW Scholar Radhika: Empower frontline workers with medical skills

Radhika Batra is a pediatrician based in New Delhi, India. Radhika leads multiple health activation campaigns with great success, e.g. distributing vitamins to pregnant women and organ donation drives. Furthermore, she is a passionate writer, a Global Peace Index Ambassador and scheduled to speak at the Cold Chain Conference in Paris in September 2019.

 

We would love to hear about your vision for the future!

Radhika: As a doctor and pediatrician, and the Founder and President of Every Infant Matters, I have seen the suffering of disadvantaged populations, and great health and economic inequities existing in the world. My vision for the future is to empower frontline workers with medical skills, and using technology as an enabler for training, data accuracy, transparency and accountability. My vision is to provide affordable and accessible health care to all, especially those who live in absolute poverty as defined by the World bank, earning less than $1.25 a day. Unfortunately, they are the ones who have to spend huge amounts of money to get health care. In the private sector, out of pocket expenses are astronomical. Public hospitals are free of cost, but they are overcrowded and overburdened. My vision is that of efficient health delivery lines that go deep into disadvantaged areas. These last miles must become cheaper, better, deeper, effective, and efficient, in order to have lasting impact. There must be efficient referral systems for those who need secondary and tertiary care.

How has your work changed since you have been an OYW scholar last year?

Radhika: Since last year, I have scaled my work in India by more than 10 times and replicated it in Nigeria. All this has happened because of my participation in the J&J OYW Program in 2018. It was a life changing experience for me, a time of intense personal growth, and the reason why I was able to build partnerships for scale. Now more than 10,120 children have been given Vitamin A to save them from going blind. More than 9000 children have been given deworming tablets to treat worm infestation, thus improve health and nutritional status. More than 23,000 disadvantaged families have been educated on breast feeding, immunization, hygiene, hand washing techniques and nutrition.

In India, I have started implementing another project: distribution of multivitamins to expectant mothers to improved nutrition both for the mother and the child growing in the uterus. Free prenatal vitamins are provided by my US based partner, Vitamin Angels.  I have started a pilot with 450 pregnant women from slums. Each woman has been given individually packed bottles of 180 capsules each, each bottle enough for 6 months. The project will go to scale in 3 months, and 4000 pregnant women will be served.

When I attended the OYW Summit last year I was amazed at the energy and passion of the delegates and was deeply impressed by their dedication and desire to serve the needy. I met people from all walks of life and all parts of the world, and we exchanged notes and talked for long hours. It began with camaraderie and ended with synergies and mutual trust.

Why is collaboration so important for you?

Radhika: ‘One man cannot move a mountain’. But if thousands were to get together and each were to carry away one stone, then surely a path-breaking event will happen, and the mountain will move. This is why partnerships are important. I am based out of New Delhi, India. I cannot possibly work in far off areas of India or the slums and villages of Africa and other countries. By partnering with local people, especially local NGOs, I can reach out to thousands of children who I cannot treat myself. Collaborations multiply the impact, divide the tension and sorrows, add greatly to one’s outreach, provide a huge leverage, and often give us economies of scale.

This year`s Summit OYW overarching theme is “diversity” – what does it mean for you in your context?

Radhika: I believe that there’s Unity in Diversity. I believe that the world is one family, and within the family, there are so many people from different religions, countries, and communities. We have a myriad of personalities and appearances and beliefs, and we may look different and act different and speak different languages, but we all belong to this one great universe, herein lies our strength. There is strength in diversity. I believe in justice, equality and inclusion. When I treat patients- its only patients that are important, and nothing else matters. My patients and partners belong to different religions, communities and even countries. My partners and I serve disadvantaged populations irrespective of colour, caste, creed, religion, social factors, sexual orientation or political affiliation. We fight for ubiquitous access to healthcare facilities. Our belief is that whatever we do, the benefit must trickle down to the poorest of the poor, and that is what counts.

J&J`s focus for One Young World 2019 is “Resiliency For Change” how would you interpret this?

Rhadika: In order to bring about a change, people, leaders, health workers and organizations must have a certain amount of resilience. At every level there are challenges. At a personal level there is sickness, difficult interpersonal relationships and financial difficulties, amongst others. Organizations face different kinds of challenges -building sustainability, raising funds, hiring and retaining the best talents and finding resources. All these are important. Leaders can suffer from burn-out and intense fear. The world today is an ecosystem where success is worshipped, and non-profit leaders suffer great insecurities. Very often they get disheartened because of obstacles. In my personal journey, I have faced most of these challenges first hand, and several more besides, and I can empathize with others struggling to stay afloat. But to anyone out there looking to bring about a change, I’d like to say this. Have courage. You are stronger than you think. And above all, always be kind, even in the face of adversity- especially to yourself.