CHENNAI – athenahealth, Inc. and Smile Foundation today announced the launch of the foundation’s flagship Smile on Wheels programme to strengthen public health infrastructure and provide primary healthcare to Chennai residents. Through the programme, athenahealth is providing financial support for a Smile on Wheels mobile health unit, which will offer primary healthcare services in an area of Chennai with approximately 17,600 households and 88,000 residents.
Mr. Sasidharan Chinnaraj, executive director of engineering at athenahealth India, participated in the recent launch of the mobile health unit, which provides services across 14 locations in Chennai, including KPK Nagar, Sundaresan Salai, Thiruvaluvar Nagar, Bharathi Nagar, and Barma Colony, among others.
Smile on Wheels is a national-level mobile hospital programme catering to underprivileged children and women. The programme sends well-equipped medical vans along with specialized doctors, nurses, medical staff, and medicine to identified villages and underserved communities to provide crucial access to healthcare services. The objective of the programme is to ensure improved health services reach the doorsteps of people residing in unserved or underserved areas. Smile on Wheels has so far provided free healthcare services to more than 1.5 million children and families across India.
The launch of Smile on Wheels in Chennai comes as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic impacts India. Fighting the new, more infectious Delta variant of the virus, frontline health workers are working around the clock even as hospitals run out of beds and oxygen, as thousands succumb to potentially preventable deaths. India has become the second-worst affected country, with more than 28 million cases and more than 349,000 deaths. The Smile on Wheels unit will organize COVID-19 awareness programs, which include information on COVID-19 protocols, symptoms, precautions, and vaccinations.
“As the pandemic continues, there is a need to strengthen systems and provide relief to as many people as possible,” said Santanu Mishra, co-founder and executive trustee of Smile Foundation. “Corporations, citizens, the government, and civil society organizations are working together to address the situation. We are delighted to partner with athenahealth, as the company’s support will go a long way in bolstering our efforts under the Health Cannot Wait campaign,” he added.
“athenahealth is proud to partner with Smile Foundation on this crucial programme,” added Sasidharan Chinnaraj of athenahealth. “Through our support of Smile on Wheels, we want to make healthcare more accessible to the unserved and underserved by bringing it directly to vulnerable communities in remote locations.”
Smile on Wheels vans cover rural or underserved communities where either no government healthcare facilities exist or where those that exist do not provide sufficient care for the population. Each unit covers the vicinity of up to 25 kilometers from its base and visits two to three villages a day. In emergency cases, it functions as a referral clinic and an ambulance. The vans are stationed in an urban center, usually with a static hospital, which operates as a referral medical center. The team also carries out awareness activities on health and hygiene to encourage healthy behavior.