The Zanskar Health Association
In 2013, Rebecca Herzog, then a medical student, went to Zanskar to study the access to health care as part of a thesis project. She conducted over 40 interviews with the local government, traditional health care providers, and local population, identifying some specific needs such as providing head torches for the midwives, distributing menstruation cups to women, and the high prevalence of eye problems, such as high altitude keratitis, leading to a partnership began with the optician company Visilab in Switzerland, allowing for about 3000 sunglasses to be provided for free to Zanskari people.
Further, there was also a focus on more systemic problems, one of which being the lack of communication between the healthcare providers. To enable an interdisciplinary discussion and elaboration of solutions the Zanskar Health Conference was created. A 3 days conference where everybody involved or interested in healthcare could participate, speak up and where solutions for problems were discussed. It took place in 2014 and it was the first time such an event had taken place in Zanskar. This conference was enabled through sponsoring by the Swiss Mountain Medicine Society (SGGM).
Due to the success of the event and the local demand a second conference took place again in 2016.
The main conclusion was the urgent necessity to improve access to healthcare in winter and to improve women and child care in remote villages. To address this, the participants found that the valley needed the creation of a mobile rescue and primary health care unit, which could travel in all conditions, even in deep snow.
To implement such a long term project, the Zanskar Health association was founded in February 2017, composed of a group of both Swiss and Zanskari friends, experts on mountain medicine, mountaineering and global health.