“When I was bitten by a snake, the villagers made me eat salt and chilli powder. They said if I couldn’t taste the salt and hot chilli, it meant that the venom had spread in my body” narrated a Pratham staff member from Madhya Pradesh. A young female volunteer who works with Pratham’s Early Childhood Education program in Patna said that one should apply ice cold milk on third-degree burns while others spoke of using toothpaste, lime (Choona) and certain spices for abrasion and minor cuts. These were some of the many shocking revelations about common practices of dealing with emergencies and injuries. We encountered them while conducting several virtual calls on first aid with our team members.

The need for health literacy in a complex country like India has never been felt more strongly than in today’s times of Covid 19 pandemic. However, Pratham had started developing content on first aid since before the pandemic. Our CEO, Dr. Rukmini Banerji who herself is trained in first aid believed that everyone associated with Pratham must have basic knowledge of first aid. This knowledge should be made accessible & available to people in rural communities. This will not only create awareness but may also save lives. Data shows that dehydration, which can easily be tackled with ORS, is one of the leading causes of childhood morbidity and mortality in India. As an organization that engages with children of different age groups, we found it imperative to create awareness about first aid.

Content Creation

For the past couple of months, Pratham’s digital team has been creating and piloting a one-of-its-kind online course on First Aid for All. A 20-day course covering 10 topics of first aid through a combination of digital resources such as videos, posters, PDF reading materials, online quizzes, final exam, viva and so on. From daily injuries like abrasion and minor cuts to more severe problems like dehydration and snakebite, the course aims to cover all the dos and more importantly the don'ts. The course also includes doubt clearance sessions with a doctor or first aid expert.

When we started by reviewing the existing content and courses available on First Aid in India, we soon realized that they did not suit our requirements and the context of our learners. There was a need to create contextualized content that was relatable to both rural and urban populations. Connecting or contrasting scientific knowledge with existing practices/myths and superstitions was key. The don’ts were as important as the dos.

Under the guidance of external partners like Dr. SnehalPathak, Dr. Praveen Sadhale, Beacon studio and the in-house content team, we created 10 videos on first aid. These videos and all the other learning resources are now available in 11 languages for children and youth across the country to access and learn from.

Implementing the course

Adapting to the ‘new normal’ of remote learning, we decided to launch the 20-day course on the online portal - Workplace by Facebook. In the last few months, we carried 3 pilots in different states with different groups to test our content and delivery. From setting basic group norms of ‘not to share forwards’, to convincing husbands to ‘allow’ their wife to be part of the pilot, our learning experience surely went beyond merely delivering the content. My colleague Smiya Chandran and I modified the posts, posters and resources almost every single night as we started executing the plan. Scraping, scribbling and scrambling through multiple excel sheets, we witnessed as the course taking a solid form with each progressing day. Each little tweak meant changes in 10 other languages. Thanks to Karan and the translation team, who swished their wands and made this happen all at the same time, in 10 different tongues.

Another heartwarming experience from these pilots was a reinforcement of the strength, commitment and adaptability of Pratham’s team members. It was astonishing to see how our field teams, now restricted to the four walls of their house, pivoted to this new working style, remotely managed youth mobilization, orientations, onboarding and follow-ups.

In the first phase, 750 mentors are being trained virtually on First Aid for all. Yes, you read it right, this is just the first phase. The training is being focused on 2 major aspects - content familiarity and course delivery. After passing the course, the mentors would be delivering the course online to their respective batches of 20 youth each. Yes, that’s 6000 youth members across the country. An entire team of facilitators, digital POCs, central and content team members are overseeing the mentor training.

Groups on Workplace host our content and are buzzing with engagement on it. You post a first aid box, your peer likes it. You pass the test and you can post (read:boast) about it. There is so much that is happening within that group chat of Workplace, that it amazes me to know that if we could deliver a First Aid course online, maybe the next unconventional course will not be too far-fetched. Through this remotely managed collective effort, we aim to reach thousands of rural youth across multiple states and languages and create awareness about first aid.

Before I sign off, here’s a question for you

What do you do if your nose starts bleeding?

        a.   Lie down

        b.   Bend your head backwards and inhale

        c.   Drink cold water

        d.   Bend your head forward and press your nose

You think you know the answer? Find out whether you are right or wrong by checking out the First Aid resources.