Armida Fernandez

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2004
Society For Nutrition Education and Health Action


This profile was prepared when Armida Fernandez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
The traditional explanation for India’s continuing failure to reduce urban infant mortality is that the country’s public health system is overburdened and the slum community is not educated and empowered enough to demand their rights for health. After years of experience as a practicing pediatrician and a senior administrator in an urban public health system, Armida Fernandez found that the real problem at the system level was a lack of efficient utilization of existing resources. Her programs focus on releasing the tremendous potential of the resources and infrastructure already available to the public health system, while simultaneously increasing the use of services at the community level. Armida proves that when the facilities and the community resources are used efficiently in a participatory manner, young lives can be saved.
Her work is centered in Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, in the city of Mumbai. Her approach uses interconnected strategies to cover all aspects of maternal and neonatal health. The strategies are based on three core principles. First, ensure every level and unit of public health care provides quality services and is used appropriately and optimally. Second, transform clients into partners by equipping them to make decisions that use the system more efficiently. Third, use a behavior change methodology to influence attitudes of health care personnel towards their clients. The Municipal Corporation of Mumbai that is responsible for the public health of the city is a partner in her project.
Armida is confident that in 4 years, with viability of the pilot demonstrated and the model fine-tuned; other cities will be open to adopting it, recognizing its potential to solve the critical problem of neonatal mortality in a replicable, practical, cost-efficient way.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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