Health & Sanitation for rural India

Apr 2018, Providence, RI

Why is diarrhea so pervassive among children of rural India?
Why are basic over-the-counter medicines not accessible to many?
How can one design child-centered and culturally relevant solutions?

Diarrhea is one of the leading health problems in India, having life threatening effects on children under the age of 6. In India, the disease accounts for 98,000 children's lives each year. Unlike in more developed countries where diarrhea is treatable with over-the-counter medicines, India's healthcare system falls short of providing basic care.

Only 2% of India's doctors work in rural areas that account for 68% of the country's population. Public clinics and hospitals in rural places lack essential medical facilities, and access to medical products and services is limited. Due to a lack of public health insurance, India carries the highest out-of-pocket spending, for medical purposes, among developing nations. Moreover, the risk of diarrhea is hightened due to ignorance of health and hygiene.

This project was aimed at researching and developing designs to help alleviate this enduring health problem. Ideas were developed through the lens of child-centered and culturally relevant design.

Lack of access to water for sanitation and personal hygiene is one of the main reasons for the pervasiveness of diarrhea in rural India. The disease spreads by coming in contact with food, household objects and people. This health problem continues to impact people's lives due to ignorance of good hygiene and unavailability of preventative solutions in these rural areas.

One of the notable precedents, aiming to mitigate the spread of diarrhea in rural India, is the setting up of sewer systems and health data analytics by the Gates Foundation and Indian Government. In addition, the government, in cooperation with The World Bank, has initiated a project to build a number of public toilets in rural areas. Nevertheless, these programs are capital intensive and require policy interventions as well as time to initiate. In spite of carrying out some of these efforts, the needle on the lives lost due to diarrhea has not changed. Outside of these precedents, no preventative solutions like consumer level products or services exist. In the following section I generated designs that are consumer centric and culturally relevant.

As part of this design research, Shreyans made prototypes of personal hygiene devices for personal and public use. These include a wearable sanitizer bottle that makes itself available when needed. Due to the abundance of clay, in rural areas, used for making pots, Shreyans made the above shown colorful clay containers that houses refill-able sanitizer liquid.