“I want to make some healthy life changes,” says Norov Bayarjargal. Behind Bayarjargal, a local herder, lies the vast expanses of the Gobi Desert. “We work hard here, and it will take a long time to make the health changes, starting with financial challenges.”
Bayarjargal is standing in front of a makeshift mobile health clinic in Dersene-Us, his native village in the southern tip of Mongolia. Besides one or two gers - traditional Mongolian yurts - and the occasional herds grazing the land, there is nothing to fix your eyes on for a long while.
A mobile health screening team, or M-Health as they call it in Mongolia, has just arrived in Dersene-Us.
Doctors and nurses from the ‘soum’, the sub-provincial health centre, go door to door to detect early disease or risk factors for disease in remote herder families. The residents are screened for communicable and noncommunicable diseases and signs of high levels of cholesterol and sugar in their blood. They also offer ultrasounds for pregnant women.
A month ago, Bayarjargal was diagnosed with an inflamed gallbladder and kidneys during the mobile screening. He was sent to the nearest local health centre, where a specialist gave him the medicines he needed.
M-Health is a very suitable and cost-effective approach for delivering health care, particularly in Mongolia, with its populations scattered throughout the vast territory.
Bayarjargal will have to go back to the health centre one more time, meaning he will have to take a day off from some of his important duties. One of these duties is being the governor of Dersene-Us. In this role, he meets with residents, explains state policies and listens to people’s grievances. What he often hears is that people have neither the time nor the money to travel to regular health check-ups.
For many people in Bayarjargal’s community, going to hospital can be costly and time-consuming. They only go to the doctor when they have an urgent need, such as for childbirth, injury or serious illness.
In 2015, as part of a drive to increase health coverage, the World Health Organization helped the Mongolian government start the M-Health initiative to bring health screening to people’s homes.
“M-Health is a very suitable and cost-effective approach for delivering health care, particularly in Mongolia, with its populations scattered throughout the vast territory. We are keen to replicate the initiative throughout the country,” says Minister of Health Davaajantsangiin Sarangerel.
Because of the mobile health screening, I was diagnosed early and received timely treatment. My family has been very supportive.
In one year of M-Health, more than 14 000 people were screened and thousands received timely medical care. M-Health was able to deliver screening to people in three of the most remote soum health centres free of charge. The plan is to expand to all 14 soums in the province.
In Dersene-Us, Bayarjargal is back after his final checkup. He is happy since the doctor has given him a clean bill of health.
“Because of the mobile health screening, I was diagnosed early and received timely treatment,” he says. “The health professionals advised me to cut down my salt and animal fat intake. I know that health is wealth and that I need to make healthy living choices now, irrespective of financial challenges."
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