Promoting Healthy Mothers and Babies in Rural India
What does a Ford vehicle have to do with the health of pregnant women in impoverished villages of rural India? Quite a bit, thanks to a novel project we recently kicked off in the state of Tamil Nadu, where we have manufacturing operations. The project – the first pilot of a program called SUMURR (Sustainable Urban Mobility with Uncompromised Rural Reach) – is finding ways we can use our vehicles and connected technologies to address critical social needs, such as health care.
In the hilly villages of Kallakurichi, maternal and infant mortality is an all-too-common tragedy, with half of all pregnant women and their newborns at high risk of death, disease or disability resulting from inadequate care. Deliveries frequently occur in homes and are rarely attended by trained health professionals. Some of the villages are so remote that government-sponsored nurses have difficulty accessing them. Many pregnant women go for months – if not for their entire pregnancies – without any medical care.
In early 2012, we launched our first SUMURR pilot project with the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Public Health, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), the U.S. Department of State and Hand in Hand, a nonprofit focused on the empowerment of women. The long-term goal is to reduce the number of maternal and infant deaths by improving the delivery of health care services. We’re providing a vehicle for nurses to reach remote locations. And we’re tailoring our mobile-device information technology to help nurses better track their patients, make diagnoses and recommend more effective treatments. A Ford Endeavor will carry medical supplies and will provide power and a vitally important wireless connection.
Currently, the regional public health division in the Tamil Nadu district of India uses a software tool called PICME (the Pregnancy Infant COHORT Monitoring Evaluation) to track health information on pregnant women and infants up through age 1. But in remote regions that lack Internet connectivity, PICME is of limited usefulness. Developers at ITT Madras will tailor applications using our Ford technology to make PICME more mobile and more accessible to village health nurses.
“Through the use of our vehicles and our technology, we hope to reach more women in the underserved areas,” said David Berdish, Ford’s manager of social sustainability. “It will improve the quality of data and the connectivity of the data to doctors and hospitals. And improved data will mean improved services, which we hope will ultimately save lives.”
If the pilot project is successful, we will work with the U.S. Department of State to roll it out to additional locations in developing markets. We will also work on creating related projects designed to help with other critical social issues, such as access to clean water or education.
SUMURR isn’t just altruism – there’s a business rationale behind it, too. The SUMURR project offers one model of how Ford can leverage our expertise in fleet vehicles, data and financing to meet social needs and develop new markets. The project will provide a practical demonstration of the use of our vehicles by health care facilities interested in providing telemedicine services, particularly in rural or hard-to-reach areas.