In Bangladesh, fewer than 1% of the population have access to healthcare. Every year, over 150,000 people die because a health issue or condition was not detected in time.
Riaz Hasan, Territory Manager for Unilever Bangladesh, lost his mother in this way. He was later told by a doctor that she might have lived for a further ten years if her condition had been diagnosed earlier.
This sad experience served as a catalyst for change. “The death of my mother motivated me to take the initiative,” he says.
Riaz recognised physical wellbeing as a crucial area of intervention. As a territory manager, he is in charge of a distributor field force of 220 workers via a Dhaka distribution company. Wages are low in Bangladesh and none of the field force have the means to pay for regular healthcare. So, working with the distributor, Riaz set up a scheme, called ‘Pulse – Good Health for All’, to provide a free health check-up for the team.
The scheme was launched on 7 April include year to mark World Health Day. Four doctors attended the ‘check-up camp’ and the entire field force was given a health screening. The doctors were supplied by a local healthcare provider, with whom Riaz negotiated a 50% discount, the fees being paid by the distributor.
The workers were each given an ECG to check heart health. They were also tested for their blood sugar levels, kidney function and Hepatitis B. Three of the workers were found to have kidney problems and two were diagnosed with diabetes. All five were made aware of their health condition and are now on medication.
Benefits for all
There were benefits all round. As part of the agreement, the workers in sound health gave a blood donation to the healthcare provider, ultimately helping to save lives.
Health awareness and morale have soared. Turnover among the distributor workforce has dropped, providing greater stability to the distributor and to Unilever. And growth has risen dramatically, reaching 22%, which is twice the national figure.
With the success of the scheme in its launch year, there are plans to scale it up in 2020. “This project saves lives,” says Riaz. “It is something no one else took responsibility for. So why not me?”