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AHA! Fellow Armida Fernandez tells the story of SNEHA

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Published on Mar 20, 2019

The Philips Foundation and Ashoka are cooperating in a multi-year program to accelerate access to healthcare around the world by connecting social entrepreneurship with industry skills.

Accelerating Healthcare Access (AHA!) is an ambitious movement between business and social entrepreneurs that addresses United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all) by scaling up social innovation.

These social entrepreneurs—selected by Ashoka for their ability to make systemic change and increase access to healthcare—will achieve their goals with support from the skills and expertise of talented and seasoned business leaders within the leading health technology company Philips.

Meet Armida Fernandez, founder of SNEHA and AHA! Fellow improving access to healthcare in India.

Photos: courtesy of SNEHA

Please see below for this video's transcript

Armida:
I’m Dr. Armida Fernandez.

Vanessa:
I’m Vanessa D’ Souza.  I’m the CEO of SNEHA.  SNEHA’s an acronym for Society for Nutrition Education and Health Action.

Armida:
Actually, in Hindi it means “love”, so that’s what we stand for.

Vanessa:
Our work increases access to healthcare to the most vulnerable women and children living in urban slums.

Armida:
I realized that if I really wanted to make an impact on the lives of women and children from these slums, I had to move out of the neonatal intensive care unit and really go to where these women stay - in their homes, with their families and communities so that we can bring about that change so that they can access healthcare earlier. And that’s how SNEHA started.




Our programs are maternal newborn health, child health nutrition, adolescent health. And because the degree of violence on women is so high, especially the ones that came to our hospital and across the country, across these we looked at also domestic violence and violence against women and children.

Vanessa:
What we’ve tried to do over the years is to bring about sustainable change. And one way to bring about sustainable change is to actually influence both the supply side as well as the demand side. So, for example, if we teach women their rights to, say, getting fortified food – for a pregnant woman to get fortified food, the woman then goes and demands the service, and one she demands the service, the supply side has no choice but to deliver the service. And that’s a way in which we can make our work sustainable over a period of time.

We believe that Philips knows how to reach the last mile, and we want to draw on that expertise of theirs to reach that last mile and to actually bring about behavior change in the women’s groups across these 95 urban areas that we are working with across the state of Maharashtra.




Armida:
You can’t teach women; you have to actually sit with them and change their behavior. So, we worked to change the behavior. And really, we were the catalyst between the systems and the communities to bring them together, so women came in early, quality of care was better, and therefore we could save more lives of women and children.

END

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