The Community Health Cell, or CHC, is the functional unit of the Society for Community Health Awareness, Research and Action, or SOCHARA. Propelled by the dedicated efforts of a core group of health and social science professionals, and supported by the long-reaching arms of an informal network, CHC was informally founded in 1984, and became a Registered Society in 1991.

CHC’s staff includes volunteers, placements and those availing of the newly instituted fellowship scheme. Their work is multi-tiered in nature: grass root interventions in five slums; regional presence in their membership in the State High Level Committee for Health and Family Welfare; national, as a part of Janarogya Andolana Janaswasthya Abhyaan; and global, as a representative of the International Secretariat of the People’s Health Movement.

In early 2002, CHC initiated a parent skill programme for the Balamandir Research Foundation in Chennai, involving 13 local organisations, including MAYA and APSA. The development of training and tools included a learning-to-play calendar, with follow-ups in the field. As a result of this programme, the Network for Information on Parenting was formed in March 2003, to understand nutritional requirements, care and bonding, gender issues, recognise disability, pre and ante natal care, and female foeticide, among other issues. This information, disseminated over several months, is now available in Kannada, Tamil and English.

CHC has also looked in to the nutritional needs of under 3-year-olds, through training in the field at the grass root level. Five slums are the target areas of this programme: Sudamanagar, LR Nagar, Victoria Layout, Ragigudda, and Hameed Khan Gardens.

This training has stretched to a programme on Women’s Health Empowerment with Mahila Samakhya, involving six districts in Karnataka (Bellary, Bidar, Bangalore Rural, Bangalore Urban, Chamarajanagar, Koppal), and partnering with nine other NGOs (Belaku Trust, Vivekananda Giri Jana Kalyana Kendra, Holy Cross Comprehensive Rural Health Project, Bellary Diocese and Development Society, Sandeep Seva Nilaya, Health Centre in Doddabalapura, and Kantikiran).

As part of the Integrated Health and Nutrition Project Proposal for the State, formulated by CHC, there is a great emphasis on the under-three segment, education of the mother, anganwadis, and supplementary nutrition.

Networking has proven its reach, as a result of which CHC is a member of a wide variety of networks, including the Navajeevana Mahila Prakriti Kendra, Consortium of Health Science Educational Institutions, The Network, Medico Friends Circle, All India Drug Action Network, and Drug Action Forum Karnataka, apart from the ones stated earlier.

Resources: They have a vast library, stocking over 7500 books and newsletters on general health, education, and women’s health, including posters, slides, videos and CDs. CHC hopes to upgrade its library, and is open to donations.

A greater awareness among existing NGOs on child-related issues, supported by better networking, would result in a more active civil society; to this end, CHC is looking in to alternative methods of communication, and the creation of teams to share life skills.

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