A clean bill of health

Published: 18 November, 2012 10:16 IST | Parinita Shetty |

To combat diabetes in the city, 16 year-old Pradyumna Laddha organises free health camps for those who can't afford a visit to the doctor

You wouldn’t expect a 16 year-old to be concerned about the country’s healthcare system. For Pradyumna Laddha, however, diagnosing diabetes and spreading awareness about the disease is an issue that’s close to his heart. On October 14, Laddha organised his third health camp at Worli’s Jijamata Nagar slums where 210 people showed up for free consultations. This camp was a part of the Good Health Movement, an initiative started by Laddha to help the underprivileged.

Pradyumna Laddha
Pradyumna Laddha distributes diabetes-related pamphlets in slums. Pic courtesy/ Pradyumna Laddha

“Once diabetes is detected, it’s easy to maintain,” Laddha explains. “But the people we target don’t know enough about the disease to get it diagnosed. Doctors charge them Rs 200–300 for each test. They can hardly afford their meals, much less the doctor’s fees.” In the camps he organises, doctors and dieticians volunteer their services and offer people free screens to assess blood-sugar levels, hypertension and body mass index.

The issue became important to the soft-spoken teenager after it was discovered that his grandfather had diabetes in 2008. “Even though we had the resources to diagnose the disease and help him, we couldn’t because we didn’t know that he had diabetes,” Laddha laments. Deciding to help others, Laddha with the support of his parents, spoke to a few people and approached some corporates for sponsorship in 2010. He held the first diabetes camp in 2011 at BT Chawl at Mahalaxmi. The recent camp was held with the support of 15 volunteers including Dr Rakesh Matekar and dietician Urvi Ved. Pharmaceutical company Arkray Healthcare provided the tests for the camp at
subsidised rates.

To attract more people to the camps, Laddha and his team went to slums and chawls and distributed pamphlets highlighting the programme. Challenges ranged from suspicions about why the programme was free to managing the crowds that eventually gathered. “If we got more volunteers, we’d be able to manage the situation better,” he believes.

For now, Laddha’s main aim is spreading large-scale awareness about diabetes and its treatment. “Diabetes often acts as a silent killer,” he says emphatically. “We want diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible. People ignore symptoms and don’t realise they have diabetes.” Laddha also hopes to expand the scope of the camps and consequently the movement.

For future camps, Laddha hopes to rope in the help of yoga trainers to assist patients in learning how to manage the disease. “We also want to be able to provide them with medicines to control their blood sugar levels,” he says. “We feel bad that we diagnose the disease but they can’t do anything about it because they can’t afford the medicines the doctors prescribe.”

The best part, he says, is discovering that so many people want to participate. “I realised that many people are willing to help each other out. But they don’t know how. They just need someone to channel and coordinate the process.”

To volunteer for the Good Health Movement, contact Pradyumna at pradyumna.ghm@gmail.com 

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