Show Details

Informal Health Care Training

October 10, 2016

Can a modest amount of training help improve health care delivery to the world’s poor?


West Bengal street scene Ryan CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Residents of West Bengal, like many other parts of the developing world, receive much of their health care from untrained practitioners. (Ryan/CC BY 2.0, via flickr)


Health care for the poor. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Over a billion people in the developing world receive healthcare from providers with no formal medical training.

ABHIJIT BANERJEE (Massachusetts Institute of Technology):

On one side people say these people shouldn’t exist, except that there’s no one else who works in those areas, so what do you expect people to do?


So MIT researcher Abhijit Banerjee and his team studied the impact of a medical training program for informal healthcare workers in the Indian state of West Bengal. They report in Science magazine that nine months of training resulted in marked improvements to diagnostic and clinical services.


The improvements are to the point where they are indistinguishable from the MD doctors operating in the area. So, they’re doing as well.


Banerjee says the training will soon be available to all informal healthcare workers in West Bengal, and thinks it could also be effective elsewhere. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard