Indian Nonprofit Brings Medical Training to Rural 'Quacks'

Naturally, the established doctors object.


A good idea in India:

A quack, you say?

Aditya Bandopadhyay has treated the sick for more than twenty years. He works in the village of Salbadra, in the state of West Bengal, India. He has no degree in medicine….

Bandopadhyay is a rural medical practitioner, one of an estimated 2.5 million in India who practise medicine without formal training. Among his ilk are people who have worked as assistants to doctors, those who inherited the use of traditional systems of medicine such as Ayurveda and homeopathy from their parents, and graduate lab technicians who switched to healthcare. None of them are doctors by any definition. They are entrepreneurs who have picked up bits and pieces of medicine through informal apprenticeships and built up large practices on their own. Or, in the words of the Indian Medical Association, they are "quacks."

Yet their popularity remains steadfast in their communities. They fill a void in India's healthcare system that cannot be ignored. And rather than mocking, berating and clamping down on them, at least one organisation is planning to harness them.

For the past couple of months, Bandopadhyay has attended a training programme that may transform the way he goes about his work. It teaches rural practitioners the basics of medicine, from human anatomy to pharmacology, giving them the theoretical knowledge that they lack. Run by the West Bengal-based nongovernmental organisation Liver Foundation, it aims to equip people like Bandopadhyay with the skills to treat acute cases of common illnesses, and, crucially, help them judge when their patients need to see real doctors.

You will not be surprised to hear that this effort has been getting some protectionist pushback from the Indian Medical Association. For that part of the story—and for many other interesting details—read the rest of the article here. For more on India's health care system, which is more market-oriented than America's, go here.

[Via pourmecoffee.]

NEXT: Drunk Off-Duty Chicago Cop Shot at Off-Duty Local Cop Trying to Pull Him Over

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Good on that NGO. Providing free classes to the guys already providing healthcare to the masses, so that they can be more effective is a good allotment of resources. This will help countless people, and these guys will spread it to whoever they choose to replace them.

    1. this

      Pave where people already walk. I like it.

      1. Mind if I steal that phrase? I really like how you worded that.


          No, of course not 🙂

        2. That came out of my first Labor Relations assmt, and observing my college. They used to literally just pave where the students had beaten a path. I thought that made a whole lotta sense – took it to work and applied it there.

          It’s like Aikido – use the energy the direction it’s already flowing – much easier, and then people actually USE what you create.

          “When you can walk across the rice paper and leave no trace, Grasshopper – then you will have learned” – intro to Kung Fu, The TV Show

          Enough phiiosophy.


          1. rivers, man. they’re gonna cut the course that gravity and the geology dictate.

    2. Homeopathy isn’t “providing healthcare” to the masses. It’s providing water to the masses.

      1. Given the number of diseases that are endemic in the third world thanks to a lack of access to reliably clean water, providing distilled water *is* providing healthcare to the masses!

      2. Homeopathy might do less harm than whatever they are doing now.

        “Drink this distilled water” v. “apply these leeches to your dong, and then drink a quart of cow piss that has been in the sun for two days” type of deal.

  2. By the way, in the U.S. “non evidence-based medicine” has been embraced by insurance companies, not so much because it works, but because it’s cheaper than “evidence based medicine”.

    If I can send you to an acupuncturist for $30 a session rather than a doctor for $240 a session, the insurance companies win.

    1. Well it works on stress related pains. If your back continues to hurt because you are stressed because your back hurts, then having someone relax you and convince you that you are going to get better will lower your stress and make your back stop hurting. Homeopathy is good at treating stress related problems and problems that just take time to go away.

      1. Well it works on stress related pains.

        It does, and studies have shown that it works exactly as well as lying on a table while listening to Windam Hill cds.

        Even fake acupuncture worked better than conventional care, leading researchers to wonder whether pain relief came from the body’s reactions to any thin needle pricks or, possibly, the placebo effect.…..upuncture/

        1. Yep, the thing about the placebo effect is you need someone to be administrating the placebo who can actually convince you it will work. Most people aren’t good enough actors to do that unless they also believe it will work. Also, if the patient stops experiencing pain afterwards then their quality of life has gone up and the treatment was a success.

          1. So, how does an insurer code and reimburse a “medical” procedure called “Lying and Willful Ignorance?”

            1. Like I was saying. Not lying on the half of the provider, the great majority believe in what they are selling, and they do a lot of research so it’s not willful ignorance either. Just superstitious.

              Some doctors, though, are looking into ways to ethically prescribe placebos. Parents of kids with the common cold demand medication for their kid beyond Nyquil. They are willing to doctor shop until they get it. This is causing the medication prescribed to be over used for situations in which it really doesn’t make a difference in the recovery time of the patient. Some doctors would like to be able to prescribe sugar pills for these type situations, but again they haven’t figured out how to ethically do so yet.

            2. I think the ICD-10 code for that is FYTW.

      2. At some point in health care, most doctors will admit the don’t really understand why Western medicine works, really.

        And, at some point, most caregivers will tell you they don’t care why something gets results, as long as it gets results.

        Me, I turned down three prescription drugs on Friday, and am off to see the acupuncturist later this week. For my tinnitus. Which no one can explain, and no one can tell me more than “Eh, give this a try. It seems to work for some people.”

    2. Darn tootin. I can go to a chiropractor for $30 a visit under my insurance. That better be a damn good back crack for $30.

      1. Chiropractors aren’t half bad. They used to be just as Quacky as acupuncturist, but a while back they figured out they could make more money by moving in a more science based direction. They aren’t causing more harm, and they aren’t trying to sell you on mythical chakra points or energy flows in the body, so I give them the benefit of the doubt.

        1. There’s nothing wrong with taking a physical therapy approach to helping people with their backs. But yeah, back when they had machines that could determine your allergy to bear meat…

    3. Also, it avoids lawsuits. You can blame the Christian Scientists for that. The insurance industry could have probably laughed-away the homeopathic “physicians” and other non-religious quacks, but since they had to accommodate the CS people on religious grounds then they had to accommodate everyone.

      That $30 spent on quackery doesn’t do anything to cure the problem, above the placebo effect. Sometimes the problem goes away so the $30 is well-spent, compared with $240 for a self-limiting condition. OTOH if the condition worsens then the patient will wait until it’s critical and then seek real medical care so the insurance company is out for multiple $30 sessions plus at least $240 for the real doctor (probably more since the patient let the condition worsen). In a just world, patients who see quacks on their insurance company’s dollar should be denied access to non-quack treatments for conditions for which the insurance company has had to pay for quack treatments.

    4. No. That’s not how it works. If your plan only covers real doctors you’d go for the $240 but you’d also need to pay some out-of-pocket – this discourages utilization via cost shifting. If you choose the $30 acupuncturist your utilization will increase (you’ll go more frequently and for longer duration).

      1. It is how it works. I was in healthcare for 30 years.

        I was on a plan which covered the $240 at 100%. There was no cost-shifting.

        In general, the insurance industry DID embrace things like acupuncture because their actuarial data showed it was cheaper in the long run.

        1. You were in an unusual plan then because co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance are typical.

          I worked as a benefits analyst for 8 years – I don’t claim expertise but have some understanding.

          Initially, the state dept. of insurance in NY (where I worked) mandated acupuncture for awhile but the industry lobbied relentlessly to get it overturned and it was. Possibly some regional differences.

  3. Protect the guild!

    It’s not the prettiest part of human nature.

  4. It’s like these savages have never even HEARD of licensing caps.

  5. Meanwhile they’ve probably bestowed Deepak Chopra with an honorary degree.

  6. Medical training seems necessary for all the countries because health is always the top issue among varying problems. Just as http://www.creative-peptides.c…..d-by-2050/ shows, hope the medical system will be improved and less people die of cancers.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.