‘I feel like my childhood would not be properly defined if I didn’t talk about my weight,’ was Priya Prakash’s opening statement to an extensive interview about her work for her non-for-profit. Her weight holds so much importance in her life because that was something that pulled her down all her youth. But one day, she decided she would pull others up instead. She made it her life’s mission to change the status quo on the Indian mindset towards children’s health. She called it HealthSetGo.
HealthSetGo is a bootstrapped health organisation with a vision to ensure that every child in every school grows up healthy. It is the only benchmark health program/organisation to implement standardised healthcare at schools in India. They do this by changing the way India looks at health in school and also by transforming the school environment and nurturing an aware, disease free generation, thus drastically reducing the burden of disease in a country which needs a radical solu- tion to its healthcare issues.
‘I still remember that during college I got into a very unhealthy phase which was the reverse of how I was at school. I started to eat very less food and basically would binge eat and try to starve myself. I was obsessed with losing weight. In this whole pursuit of weight loss I ended up walking into what I thought was a kickboxing class.’ Little did she know it would change her life. Actually a cross-fit machine-less gym, Priya was handed weights to start with. Fast forward a couple months and Priya won the Silver in Delhi State Weightlifting Championship in Olympic Lifting. ‘This fundamental habit of fitness prompted me to change my perspective on health overall. I realised how much of a difference being healthy made and this was a founding belief for HealthSetGo,’ she says.
HealthSetGo offers a 360-day program covering all needs of a school: Annual Medical Assessments of a student , a custom online portal for Parents to track their child’s health, vaccinations and allergies, a School Health Centre with a Nurse/Doctor, Insurance, First aid and CPR training and most importantly Health Education.
They empower parents to make data driven decisions to take necessary, timely action with their child’s health.HealthSetGo is also integrating health education through an activity based curriculum into the K-12 ecosystem and making it easy to inculcate behavioural change by learning about physical health, mental health, food and nutrition and hygiene and sanitation. They are also keeping major focus on menstrual health and sexual abuse awareness.
Some of their most meaningful work has happened in the government space with their partnerships with the Tirupati Smart City Mission wherein they ensure that all students detected with an issue get treated at the nearest primary healthcare centres free of cost.
Recently, Priya partnered with FSSAI to kickstart theEatRightIndia Movement in Schools and launching the 21-DayEatRightIndia Challenge on the occasion of World Food Day and World Obesity Day, trying to eliminate the condition of obesity in children.
When it comes to sanitation/health/eating habits, our country has always been in the news for not being upto the mark. The statistics say that working parents in nuclear families and lack of health awareness have left India with 14.4 million obese children, among other grave mental/physical health concerns. With non-communicable diseases taking centrestage, it is predicted that 70% of all unhealthy children today will need hospitalization tomorrow due to entirely preventable causes. Apart from this there was a major challenge Priya has faced time and again, ‘In a country like ours, so much importance is being given to just studies that we end up los- ing on other things. This was our big challenge; productising health and making schools believe that health was some- thing they needed to buy into because it directly impacts their students’ education. It took time but I think now more than ever schools are open to something like this and also want to ensure that children get a holistic education focused on health apart from academics.’
Having perfected the art of implementing preventive health programs across the country, last year Priya set up an Innovation Lab to focus solely on research based health interventions for children. As for the future, she is clear that she wants to reach out to 1 million students by 2020! ‘We’re doing research in combating Obesity in children aged 12-17 years and reaching out to thousands of mothers and fathers on a regular basis. The key here is spreading the knowledge and identifying the problem too. We also aim to expand into the Government school domain which will dramatically increase our impact on the health of students in the country. We are also starting with a Fitness Curriculum for preschool children.’
Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani