‘One Health’ is defined as the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines – working locally, nationally, and globally – to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment. Envisioned to have a broad and growing scope, the concept of ‘One Health’ provides an opportunity for the convergence of public health and conservation for mutual benefit.
Caring for Conservators: Preventive Healthcare for Forest Staff
Frontline forest staff deployed in Protected Areas (PAs) around the country work under very stressful conditions. Extreme weather, long and strenuous patrols, and encounters with armed poachers lead to high incidences of stress-related diseases. Apart from exposure to communicable diseases such as malaria, forest staff are also vulnerable to chronic non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. The remoteness of their locations, coupled with lack of affordable and quality healthcare, exacerbates the problem.
WCT addresses this problem by conducting health check-up camps and providing preventive healthcare to frontline forest staff, free of cost. The initiative is being conducted in partnership with Tulsi Foundation, UK.
- Screening for non-communicable disease risk factors such as raised blood glucose, abnormal lipids, raised blood pressure, use of tobacco, use of alcohol, etc.
- Blood pressure check, measurement of height and weight to calculate BMI, and measurement of waist circumference.
- Basic pathology investigations including haemoglobin levels, HbA1c, liver profile, lipid profile, etc.
- Screening for Hepatitis B & C.
- ECG test for those identified with cardio-vascular risk factors.
These screenings allow WCT health teams to identify officials with chronic or serious illnesses, who are then advised to seek further treatment.
Having covered more than 16,000 forest staff from over 22 Tiger Reserves, we also aim to disseminate the findings from these screenings to all relevant stakeholders to raise awareness about the health risks and needs of forest staff. In this regard, scientific peer reviewed articles and reports are being prepared.
Trauma Management Training
Globally, India ranks first in on-duty mortality of frontline forest staff. More than 100 frontline forest staff have lost their lives due to accidents and injuries sustained during work between 2014 and 2018. Continuing with our efforts to build capacities in forest staff, we are addressing their need for access to emergency healthcare.
Through the ‘Trauma Management Training’, we impart necessary knowledge and skills to the frontline forest staff, enabling them to respond to emergencies effectively. These skills prove invaluable for the forest staff posted at remote locations with limited availability of healthcare services.
WCT, along with its health partner Tulsi Foundation, UK, conducts one-day training sessions for frontline forest staff to impart basic-first aid and trauma management techniques. The training includes an overview of trauma-care, guidance on methods to deal with emergencies such as injuries due to animal or human attacks, vehicular trauma, fall from a height, snake and scorpion bites, burns and heat-strokes, high-grade fevers, epilepsy attacks and other medical emergencies. Group exercises in simulated field settings provide a hands-on experience for the forest staff.
Over 1200 frontline forest staff from 17 PAs in the Central Indian Landscape have been trained under the programme. A survey of the trainees revealed that at least one in ten forest staff have faced serious trauma due to accidents, major injuries and animal attacks (including snake bites) while working in the field, from where even basic medical care was more than 30 km away.
We have also developed and distributed a ‘First Aid Field Guide for Forest Staff’ that provides a ready-reference for managing emergencies which they are likely to face in the field.
As we continue our efforts to ensure access to healthcare for forest staff, our aim is also to make their health and safety an integral part of ‘One Health’.
Mapping Health Facilities around PAs:
Lack of access to healthcare is one of the major challenges for people living and working in remote forest settings. Creating sustainable and cost-effective solutions to improve this situation is essential for protection of forests and wildlife, and this can only be achieved through a multi-disciplinary approach by engaging multiple stakeholders.
WCT is now planning collaborative efforts with state health departments to improve access to primary health care for forest staff around PAs. One of our upcoming initiatives is a mapping exercise to identify suitable healthcare facilities for forest staff, which can then be equipped and upgraded to provide appropriate care not only for medical emergencies but also for chronic medical conditions. This would also benefit the communities living in these remote forest areas.
Our Health Partner
- Conservation Strategy
- 12,000 Forest Officers Trained in Wildlife Law Enforcement
- Reinforcing Protection