Asha’s Response to COVID-19: Providing Care to Slum Communities in India


  • Jean Oulund Peteet Boston University
  • Louanne Hempton
  • Dr. John R. Peteet Harvard Medical School, Boston MA
  • Dr. Kiran Martin Asha Community Health & Development Society



COVID-19, pandemic, slums, values, community, health, India


Slum populations, the most vulnerable to COVID-19, are emerging as hotspots for transmission of the virus. Comprehensive strategies for addressing this challenge exist, but reports of effective models for implementing them have been lacking. Asha, a 33-year old health and community development organization in Delhi, India,  has responded to the pandemic by activating well-developed networks in the community to enact a range of interventions, with encouraging results. The success of Asha in controlling COVID-19 in the slums reflects the realization of the values Asha promotes in the community: dignity, empowerment, justice, non-violence, compassion, gratitude, generosity, optimism, joy, and simplicity. Although developed by a team of Christians and those of other faiths on Asha’s staff, these values enjoy broad-based support within a pluralistic, Hindu-influenced society. 

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, slums, values, community, health

Author Biographies

Jean Oulund Peteet, Boston University

After receiving a Certificate in Physical therapy from Columbia University, New York, she completed a MPH degree from Boston University. She completed a PhD, from Walden University, MN in Public Health with a concentration in community health. In her 47-year career, she was a clinician in New York City, North Carolina, and a clinician, administrator, and consultant in Boston. She worked in acute care, rehabilitation, and home care settings. She held clinical and teaching appointments at Boston University, focusing on health promotion and health policy, mentored students with community based health promotion interventions and served as a consultant and resource to under-served communities in the U.S. and globally. Since 2017, she has been a Boston University Clinical Assistant Professor, Emerita.

Louanne Hempton

B.S.Sc. Dip SwLouanne Hempton worked in Belfast for 25 years during the height of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Initially trained as a social worker, most of her working life was spent delivering and, subsequently developing, an innovative range of integrated health and social services to address the needs of the local community. She was also involved in shaping policy development in Northern Ireland, specifically for people with disabilities. She and her husband moved to US in 1998. Since then she has actively volunteered for a number of organizations.

Dr. John R. Peteet, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA

After receiving his M.D. degree at Columbia University, he completed a medical internship at UNC in Chapel Hill, a residency in psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, and a fellowship at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, in Boston. For over 40 years he has been a psychiatrist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. A Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, he has received several teaching awards and published numerous papers in the areas of psychosocial oncology, addiction, and the clinical interface between spirituality/religion and psychiatry. He has authored or co-edited 10 books, including Doing the Right Thing: An Approach to Moral Issues in Mental Health Treatment, Depression and the Soul and The Soul of Medicine: Spiritual Perspectives and Clinical Practice. He is the recipient of the APA’s Oskar Pfister Award and is past president of the American Psychiatric Association’s Caucus on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry.

Dr. Kiran Martin, Asha Community Health & Development Society

MBBS, DCH, Founder and Director. Dr. Martin studied at the University of Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medical College, gaining a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree. She then specialized in pediatrics at Lady Hardinge Medical College within the same university. Responding to a cholera outbreak in a Delhi slum in 1988, Dr. Martin began treating those residents and saw the need not only for quality healthcare in the slums but also the need to address other social determinants including education, empowerment, income generation and better supporting infrastructure. This gave birth 32 years ago to the Community Health and Development NGO that has transformed lives of hundreds of thousands slum residents. Around 700,000 people in 91 slum colonies of Delhi now benefit from the work of Asha, which means ‘hope’. Dr. Martin’s achievements were recognized by the Indian Government when she was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards. Asha’s work has been praised and replicated by organizations in many countries. Dr. Kiran is the nerve center of Asha, envisions the strategic roadmap and provides key management input in all aspects of Asha’s endeavors. 


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How to Cite

Peteet, J. O., Hempton, L., Peteet, J. R., & Martin, K. (2020). Asha’s Response to COVID-19: Providing Care to Slum Communities in India . Christian Journal for Global Health, 7(4), 52–57.



Short Communications / Field Reports