Reckitt Benckiser and Apollo Hospitals Group have a vision for taking their partnership in healthcare and nutrition beyond Aragonda and Thavanampalle Mandal in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, where the two pioneer brands have successfully joined hands to improve the sanitation, hygiene and health outcomes of the people.
Reckitt Benckiser tied up with Apollo Hospitals in July 2019 to drive India’s health narrative with the launch of ‘Arogya Rakshak’ - Protected by Dettol, Cared by Apollo, which aims to strengthen the school hygiene programme, health clinics and support community nutritional centres in Thavanampalle.
The two brands are now planning to jointly create a Centre of Excellence in Community Nutrition, which is likely to be launched this year.
Ravi Bhatnagar, Director External Affairs & Partnerships, Reckitt Benckiser, Health told Outlook: “We are very happy that Harvard is to make a case study of Aragonda village, and cite it as a gold standard for any village in the world. The Arogya Rakshak programme is very, very interesting, and highlights the partnership between Dettol Banega Swasth India and Apollo’s Total Health in Aragonda. One of the main reasons for this is that Reckitt Benckiser and Apollo’s missions are aligned.”
Gaurav Jain, Senior Vice President, South Asia, Reckitt Benckiser, Health said: “Reckitt Benckiser wishes to reach out to one billion individuals in India through its hygiene and health solutions. And the big vision and the healthcare revolution that Dr Prathap C Reddy (Apollo Chairman-Founder) has brought in India in 1983 by introducing the role of the private sector in healthcare – the two are perfectly aligned.”
Speaking about their partnership in Aragonda, Dr Prathap Reddy said: “This unique initiative with RB is aimed to complement Total Health’s objective of providing comprehensive healthcare -- from prevention to cure to the people and help them lead healthier and happier lives. Our partnership will help raise awareness about the importance of hygiene amongst the masses.”
Elaborating about the plan to create a Centre of Excellence in Community Nutrition, Ravi Bhatnagar said one of the important projects would be to work with frontline health workers to improve the breastfeeding practices in India.
In India, less than 50% of children are breastfed within an hour of birth. The rate of exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months stands at 55%, according to data. Early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding can prevent thousands of deaths of children every year due to diarrhoea and pneumonia. Breastfeeding builds immunity, protects against under-nutrition and gives babies the best start in life.
“The frontline health workers would assist mothers in breastfeeding their babies, because many mothers have problems with lactation, due to many reasons, including inverted nipples. One of the aims of the programme would be on how to bridge that gap in breastfeeding, so that immediately after the birth the mother is able to exclusively breastfeed her baby. This will help the country improve the breastfeeding rates,” said Bhatnagar.
The other initiative is to focus on kangaroo care – which involves infants being carried in special aprons, usually by the mother, with skin-to-skin contact. This simple method for caring the newborn infants, where the mother uses her own body temperature to keep her infant warm, is useful for nursing low birth weight infants, and also prevents hypothermia.
The third initiative the Centre of Excellence will focus on would be in the training of frontline health workers through virtual reality and interesting games. “The training for the first 1,000 days of the child -- from conception to its second birthday which are the most crucial -- will be done through games. We are also experimenting on bringing in Artificial Intelligence into play so that AI can assist the healthcare workers in detecting the most severe malnutrition cases, so that mortality and morbidity can be checked well in time,” Bhatnagar added.
The plan is to launch the Centre of Excellence in Maharashtra, Jain said.
“Hand infection in hospitals across the world is around 4 per cent whereas in India it stands at 18 per cent which according to me is very high level,” Prathap C Reddy, Founder Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group said at an event held here to announce the partnership. “Healthcare is not about curing diseases but also about prevention of disease and such simple initiatives to help achieve that,” Reddy added.