Community-based palliative care in Kerala- Interview with Dr Suresh Kumar

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and People & Places.

Community participation in Palliative Care in Kerala has a history of more than a decade. We now see that a major political party is training and deploying community volunteers in palliative care on a large scale. What do you think about the new development?

I see the entry of this potential major player in palliative care in Kerala as a success of the sensitization and advocacy campaign for palliative care in the state. The message being delivered all along has been that ‘palliative care is everybody’s business’. In addition, the recent entry of local self government institutions into palliative care helped a large number of local politicians to get exposure to the theory and practice of palliative care. The decision of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to contribute to palliative care can be seen as a natural consequence of these ongoing activities. The entry of a huge number of community volunteers will definitely enrich palliative care services in Kerala. New Palliative Care projects by Local Self Government Institutions offers a lot of space for these new volunteers to work. Even the ongoing training programs aiming to generate 50,000 new volunteers in a few months are likely to have a positive impact on sensitising the society.

Don’t you have any concerns about this development at all?

My only concern is about quality control and monitoring the work of a large number of new volunteers in immediate future. But since they are expected to work with the existing services in most of the places, I am hoping that the current mechanism in place will be able to handle this.

Are you not worried about a political parties encroaching into what is generally considered as civil society ground?

The term Civil Society is a buzzword today. People attribute different meanings to it in different contexts. The definitions excluding political elements gained popularity only since the nineties. Rather than going by the narrow definition of civil society by the World Bank and similar agencies as an apolitical sphere of activity, I consider it as a vibrant space in which popular ideas, values, norms and practices are born, questioned and changed. Political workers are also part of civil society. I am actually happy to see some of them trying to claim the social space they are entitled to.

What do you think will be the future of community participation in palliative care in general?

I would like to reword the question as the future of palliative care! Despite attempts from various corners for more than three decades, globally, palliative care is accessible to only less than 8% of the needy today. It should be obvious to everybody by now that we are unlikely to achieve any meaningful coverage ever if we continue to take the conventional track. We need to be more innovative. Community participation in palliative care can yield results. Kerala has already shown this happening in a short time. I believe that the evolving community based model in Kerala points to a possible option before palliative care. And I do not see any other option than community participation at the moment, either locally or globally

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