Grassroots and Development Category

Balaji Sampath and AID-Chennai

Association for India's Development (AID) is a non-profit, volunteer movement committed to promoting sustainable, equitable and just development, especially at Indiaís grassroots. Dr. Balaji Sampath, while a graduate student at the University of Maryland, was instrumental in expanding AID's chapter base to many cities across the US. Upon completion of his Ph.D. in 1997, he returned to India as an AID Fellow (Jeevansaathi). Based in Chennai, Dr. Sampath works with the Tamil Nadu Science Forum, particularly in the areas of community health, education initiatives and women's savings groups. He, as part of AID Chennai, was instrumental in organizing the national-level workshop of the People's Health Assembly in Nov-Dec 2000, and is a key coordinator of the block-level developmental initiatives of the All India Peoples Science Network (The Hundred Block Plan).

Dr. Sampathís AID-team has established Ganini Computer and Information Centres, which are low cost computer education and information centers. Each center serves about 30-60 villages. Another grassroots project they have been involved in is the Arrogya Iyakkam project that mainly addresses the blocks which are formed as part of the Hundred Block Plan (HBP). In each block (of about 30 villages) the health needs of about 30,000 families are addressed. Dr. Sampathís team has developed a mathematical model for malnutrition studies from data gathered as part of the Arrogya Iyyakam project. This project was adjudged one of the ten best projects in the world by UNICEF. Dr. Sampathís team has also developed the use of a digital data card for use in Self Help Groups and other development related areas. The impact of their work has been seen in several villages, where technology is actively used, and which are now able to generate their own funds and are able to sustain their own community development programmes.

Recently, Dr. Sampath, in his capacity as the AID Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation campaign leader, was elected as an Ashoka Fellow. As a person Dr. Balaji Sampath has been a true role model to a number of people. His commitment and honesty in trying to tackle important social issues are both inspirational as well as infectious.

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Vikram Sheel Kumar and Vishwanath Anantraman

Dr. Vikram Sheel Kumar and Dr. Vishwanath Anantraman co-founded Dimagi, a healthcare informatics firm in 2002. Dimagiís innovations and services are aimed at improving the quality of health and health-care at the grassroots level. Dimagi provides technology to NGOs, organizations working at grassroots level, governments, etc. The objective of Dimagiís innovations is to help make health information more useful to patients so that they could be more centrally involved with their own care.

Dimagi has developed Ca:sh (Community Accessible and Sustainable Health system), a mobile electronic medical record system designed to be used by outreach workers in large communities. In Zambia, the system that Dimagi is building, along with its partners, uses SmartCard technology to allow electronic storage of data by the patients themselves. Dimagi has also developed HIV Confidant, a handheld computer system to distribute HIV results in a population-based HIV surveillance project at the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies in South Africa. The system combines the advantages of linked anonymous HIV surveillance with the opportunity for subjects who wish, to be confidentially counseled on their status without having to have a second blood sample taken. Another product developed at Dimagi is DiaBetNetTM, an innovative interactive self-management tool for children with juvenile diabetes. This system has successfully completed a phase 1 clinical trial and is being enhanced for commercialization.

Dr. Kumar and Dr. Anantraman obtained degrees in M.D., and M.S. in Infomatics degrees respectively, from the Harvard University / Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Prior to this, Dr. Kumar obtained a BS in Operations Research from Columbia University in 1999, and Dr. Anantraman received an MBBS from the St-John's National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India in 1999.

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