Bold Idea: Undaunted by staggering statistics and the political roadblocks to systemic change, Piyush Tewari trains local communities to provide emergency medical care for their neighbors, creating a chain of survival that he hopes to extend from India around the globe.
SaveLIFE Foundation’s founder, Rolex Laureate, and 2012 Echoing Green Fellow Piyush Tewari acknowledges that some global issues generate more widespread concern than others. The idea of improving emergency medical response is somehow less compelling to the imagination than, say, ridding the world of hunger or protecting civil rights.
But flashy or not, Piyush is proving that providing a specific, practical means to save lives is no less world-changing.
Road accidents lead to the deaths of 1.3 million people around the world every year; in India alone, about 150,000 die and half a million people are disabled each year as the result of a road accident. The truly striking statistic is that many of these deaths do not happen on impact. They happen on the side of the road, as victims wait for transportation to the hospital with no one to attend to them or stabilize their condition, or in the back of a police car, untreated or improperly transported.
Piyush hopes to move SaveLIFE beyond its home base of India, into other countries where the same need exists. The motivation behind SaveLIFE stems from more than general concern for human welfare. Piyush founded the organization after his 17-year-old cousin died on the side of the road in full public view, waiting for help. Investigation into his cousin’s death revealed that it could have been prevented if basic care had been administered in time.SaveLIFE Foundation was launched to address the need for urgent care in the all-too-frequent event of road accidents in areas where emergency medical services are inadequate or nonexistent. Particularly in impoverished nations, or those with slow governmental processing, SaveLIFE trains community members and local authorities, such as police officers, in first response skills to help save the lives of victims in the critical first moments after an accident, when chances of survival are highest. SaveLIFE’s approach to the solution is not limited to training alone — they have developed a technology solution that uses automated robo-calling to alert volunteers and police officers of accidents in their respective areas. This ensures that a trained person rapidly reaches a victim.
This is the story of 80% of road accident victims in India. And Piyush’s personal stake in changing that story is precisely what attracts worldwide support to his foundation.
“For some people who we’ve met,” says Piyush, “whether having suffered a road crash in the U.S., or maybe having friends in India who have suffered, it’s an issue they can relate to. Because they can relate to it, they want to take action.”
In the past few months, SaveLIFE has been looking for new opportunities to inform and train communities in offering urgent care to accident victims. In areas where emergency care is wanting, there is very little awareness that such care could save the lives of their neighbors and loved ones. It’s a vicious cycle, where lack of information perpetuates lack of positive change. SaveLIFE aims to break this cycle by fostering awareness, by presenting their training programs at ground-level in local communities and offering them to governmental bodies, and spreading their message through television and social media.
In the past three years, SaveLIFE Foundation has trained 3,000 police officers in emergency medical response, from CPR to wound treatment to stabilizing head traumas. The result of their work is a 25% increase in the survival rate of road accident victims. And that’s only the beginning.
“Our program goes beyond road accidents–it’s also saving victims of other emergencies. In September 2011, there was a bomb blast outside Delhi high court. There were 45 people injured, with 5 dead on scene. The remaining 40 people were provided immediate basic life support by police officers trained by us, and each one of the 40 injured survived.”
Money donated to the foundation allows them to short-circuit the arduous process of changing governmental systems in order to make emergency medical response a regular component of police training. “It takes about $10 to provide emergency response training to a police officer,” Piyush says. “The exciting part is sharing the stories of first responders and of the lives they saved with supporters who contributed toward creating that reality.”
“To actually see and feel the work that is happening on the ground–that makes a big difference to a lot of people.”
Along with their work training, connecting and mobilizing first responders, SaveLIFE is advocating for a Good Samaritan Law to create a supportive legal environment for bystanders to assist injured victims. Demand for a stronger national road safety law is also part of SaveLIFE’s ongoing advocacy efforts and the foundation is aiming to produce, with support from donors, high-quality sensitization videos on this epidemic for policy makers as well as general public.
Last year, SaveLIFE hosted a ceremony to honor the police officers who, as a result of their training, saved the lives of thousands of road accident victims, and have brought the survival rate of these accidents up to 97%. For Piyush, success is all in terms of survivors. And it depends on SaveLIFE’s capacity to reach communities around the world with their training programs.
“That’s really what our broad goal is,” he says. “No life should be lost for want of basic life-saving care. Preservation of life is paramount.”
Drive Change: Chances are your life has been affected by the crucial need for emergency medical response. How does your experience help you connect to the need for effective emergency services in countries and communities where they are inadequate, or exist as a privilege rather than a right? Learn more about how the lack of services like these affects mortality in community around the world. Find out how far a little support can go to saving lives of people like you, all over the world.