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Low-cost medical technology – The need of the hour

The exponentially rising cost of medical care is a matter of deep concern globally.

In the last three decades, we have seen tremendous advancement in medical technology, involving sophisticated machines, materials, and equipment, resulting in cost escalation to a very high level.

Medical care these days is completely based on high-technology machines for diagnostic as well as therapeutic purposes. For more machines, you need more trained manpower to handle them, resulting in further increase in the cost.

One shining example of low-cost medical technology and India’s contribution to the medical world is Jaipur Foot, designed and developed by Dr PK Sethi. It is made up of rubber, wood, and metal. All the components used in Jaipur Foot fabrication are biodegradable except ankle bolt and nails, which makes it an environment-friendly product, a quality which becomes very important with global increase in environmental consciousness.

As someone has rightly said growth is not just adopting new technology. It is also adapting to new realities. Technology that protects the environment is the one new reality; we all have to keep in mind and it is the biggest need of the hour.

Jaipur Foot looks like a normal foot. It can be used with or without shoes with equal ease. It allows the user to follow Indian life style to sit cross-legged and squat as it is flexible enough at the ankle.

Being water proof, it can be used by farmers in muddy fields. It is a culture-specific innovation, provides simple solution to a very complex problem. It is an indigenous product as it can be produced at a considerably low cost (USD 7) by using materials available in the open market, with the help of very simple hand instruments and machines.

This ensures uninterrupted production and makes us self-reliant. Development of low-weight thermoplastic calipers to replace heavy weight, metal, wood, and leather conventional calipers for polio and other paralytic patients, is another major milestone in the Jaipur rehabilitation technology. The requirement of these calipers is 10 times more than the Jaipur Foot.

Appropriate technology is the one which is relevant to us, which our countrymen can afford and takes care of our lifestyle and religious and cultural values.

Its manufacturing in India is likely to be supported by the government’s Make in India campaign.

Arvind panagariya of Columbia University has mentioned in his book India Unlimited that there is still a huge demand for low-wage goods.

Since it has already been fitted in more than 50 countries, it can contribute significantly to medical tourism.

Our rehabilitation technicians were never trained in any medical college. They all passed secondary school exam and were from the families of carpenters, blacksmiths, and goldsmiths. They were having excellent hands-on skill and an aptitude to work with hands. They grew up in an environment where they saw their parents working with hands using simple instruments.

The method of learning by doing was adopted. At the same time, they were made to understand what they were doing and why they were doing. English teachers were also arranged to improve their communication skills. They were also motivated to think how they could do it better. They were found to be more flexible to new ideas and changes. Many times they came out with remarkably innovative ideas and solutions to many problems faced by the patients.

Our work is a shining example of how non-formal education, coupled with conventional wisdom, can create wonders.

The Jaipur Foot has been labeled as a foot piece for low-income countries or third-world countries. I fail to understand why! Is there any difference in the walking pattern of rich and poor or Indian or the British? All homosapiens walk with the same steps in gait cycle all over the globe, using the same muscles, bones, and ligaments.

The only reason that prevents it from being recognized as a global product by Western researchers is their rigid mindset not to accept any product from the underdeveloped or developing countries as useful for them. In spite of this, globetrotting Jaipur Foot is used in more than 50 countries and is hailed by the Times magazine as among the greatest inventions of the 20th century. The aim of our working is not to get approval of the West. West can no more be the solution provider for our problems.

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