- September is observed as a nutrition month in India
- Saathealth is working towards building a healthier societies in India
- Saathealth has reached out to more than 50,000 families
New Delhi: “Earlier, I used to feed my children everything. But then also, I used to see them getting weak or getting infected with some or the other disease. By the time, I had my third child, I was made aware of good nutrition practices, I could see the difference in my child’s health. My third child started walking from 10 month itself and is comparatively more healthy,” says Kulsum from Mankhurd region of Mumbai. Milind who is a father of young child from the same region adds, “I learnt to take care of my child along with my wife. I understood as a father, I need to be involved in my child’s growing years.”
Sangi Maurya who is a mother of three children from another suburb in Mumbai adds, “From the past two years, I have been very particular about my children’s nutrition. Now I know, what food is good for their overall health, what can make their bones healthy. I even know terms like protein-rich or fibre-rich food, which are very vital for a child’s overall growth.”
Kulsum, Milind or Sangi are not alone, there are more than 50,000 families in Mumbai and Delhi who have been reached out and made aware on how to lead a healthy, nutritious life and thereby help India’s next generation become healthy, courtesy Saathealth, a digital platform launched in 2018.
We believe that by changing the beginning, we have a chance of changing the entire story. With a vision to equip India’s next-generation parents with all the knowledge and resources so that they can make sure their children – our next generation grow up all healthy, which in turn can be a start of healthier societies for India, we initiated Saathealth, says the co-founder – Aditi Hazra-Ganju who together with her husband Aakash Ganju has been working on this initiative.
What Is Saathealth?
Saathealth is a digital platform – online and app based, where engaging one-minute animated videos, quizzes and infographics in the local language are uploaded every now and then and the content aims to reach out to the local communities that need to be told about the basic building blocks of their child’s health, nutrition standards, early childhood development metrics.
When Did They Start And From Where?
Aditi and Aakash – founders of Saathealth had a career in pharmaceuticals and later their common interest on working in the social sector made them switch paths. Together they took on board a core team of just eight people from different sectors and started working on the platform. She adds,
We thought it is right time for India to have a digital platform that can help bring about a behavioural change among communities when it comes to good nutrition and its practices. So, we decided to come up with an android app as mobile phone is one commodity which you now find in every single household. Our target was to educate urban poor living in different areas of Mumbai and Delhi about health in general. We targeted families with children age between 0-6 years and filled the app with short videos that were all about health. From how to breastfeed the baby to why initiating breastfeeding from the first hour of childbirth is important and what nutrition should be given in the first 1000 days, we put it all.
How Saathealth Engaged Local Communities
Saathealth had one thumb rule – they wanted to make health information reach out to the sector which needed the most, secondly, the information should be made available in the most interesting format so that families can watch it like a TV series or soap operas, yet gain knowledge about the nutrition and good health. Aditi explains,
Information related to health is always very preachy or boring, we wanted to make it interesting and more communicating. Therefore, we decided to make video content, more in Bollywood style, in Hindi language, so that pan-India it can be used and more and more families can connect with the information, yet take home the very important message.
Highlighting more about the platform and how they spread the word about using their app in different parts of Maharashtra, Aditi said that initially Saathealth started with Mankhurd area and then spread to Shivaji Nagar, Kurla, Varsha Nagar in Mumbai and undertook two colonies in Delhi’s Trilokpuri. The first step in the process was to spread the word about the app and for that Saathealth set up camps in the areas where the field researchers used to go door-to-door and spread awareness about the app and why the families should use it. Secondly, the organisation also started doing workshops in which they used to gather young women together and motivate them to use the app. Aditi adds,
Many of the women related as they were either new mothers or were about to deliver babies, so in order for their children to be healthy, they started getting motivated with the content. They wanted to know about breastfeeding practices, they wanted to know about nutrition and that’s when we also realised how much need there is on ground is for such type of content because mostly urban poor lives in nuclear sort families and they need some sort of support and guidance when it comes to ensuring health of their children.
Saathealth knew just uploading information will not take them ahead in this game, so they initiated a very interesting scheme. Explaining that Aditi adds,
We needed to motivate families by giving some incentives, so we tied up with local kirana stores in the locality. To nudge a behavioural change permanently, we started giving them points – the more they watched videos and answered quizzes related to the videos on the app, the more points they got. We also enabled sharing button on the app so that the information can be shared with other families and that also got them points.
Why points? Because if we are asking these people to bring in protein rich food in their diet by getting eggs and pulses then that will not always work. These things are costly and if they are unable to afford them the whole exercise goes for a toss and that’s why we started giving them points which can be used as discounts coupons in their nearby kirana stores. We tapped kirana stores in this whole process so that they become our changemaker on the ground, we told them that we will increase footfall to their stores if they spread and educate families on why they should consume content from the app and take care of their families health and nutrition. We also paid the kirana stores for the discount so that nobody is in loss.
Within the first three months, Saathealth reached about 50,000 downloads and the content started to getting consumed not just in the regions we were working but across India. Aditi says,
We saw content being downloaded from Lucknow, Noida and other cities of India and that’s when we decided to launch a pan-India online website and uploaded all the content we had on app on our online platform. Today, we are present in 25 cities of India and working with different NGO and private companies and making short consumable content for them so that the message of nutrition can reach more and more families.
Saathealth uploads approximately 40 new videos in a month on different topics of health which are curated as per the need of the region. Explaining how the content is decided and curated for the purpose on the app and online platform, Aditi said,
We are a diverse team of innovators, doctors, former consultants, engineers, researchers, health workers, educators. We all are very passionate about the subject, so first, we decide the area we want to target, secondly we research about what is lacking in the particular area and then draft or plan on content plan. Whatever is put out on both the platforms is well-researched and scientifically proven content. To make one content video, it takes the team 2-3 days time.
Remembering an anecdote, Varun Garg, Video/Content creator with Saathealth added,
I realised the importance of my work when we were on the field taking feedback from people who had consumed our content. There was this one family from Mankhurd, Mumbai that said that earlier the husband used to come home and simply switch on the TV and not spend time with the child, after consuming the content on Saathealth, the husband started to take interest in the child’s growth. Another father told me that earlier he used to give his child wafers or candies every now and then and after consuming the content he realised how bad that stuff is for his child’s growth and started bringing home more fruits and vegetables. That, I think was the major eye opener and we became more responsible for the kind of content we put out. Secondly, the project made me realise one thing that no matter what section of society we are in, everyone out there wants the best for their children in terms of their health.
Talking about how the content is designed and the theme for videos on nutrition and health, Varun Garg added,
We focussed on two major areas – first credible information, secondly, whatever content is put out is relatable with the families and simple for consumption.
Sharing example of one such video that has been made, Varun Garg said,
We all have heard how important is motor skill games for children in their early age of development such as jumps, their reaction towards lights and hand and legs coordination, since the urban poor can’t afford to buy such games, we decided to make videos using that thought process for them. In a video, we showed how a father can play games with their children and thereby help in developing necessary skills for good development of their child. We showed that they can use their mobile phone light and reflect in some area and ask their children to go and stand where they see the light coming or simply point it out. In a similar manner, we made videos in which woman of the house is making recipes using healthy ingredients. The thought is basically to make families learn about the overall growth for their children through these videos.
Currently, Saathealth is working on COVID-19 related videos and spreading awareness in the local communities about the doS and don’ts of coronavirus, how families should protect themselves from the virus, the appropriate behaviour in a pandemic and how the families should keep their immunity strong in these times by eating a healthy diet.
Aditi signs off with this message,
As parents to two young boys, the notion that children may not get the right start in life that they deserve, because their parents did not know what to do, seems tragic. We will continue to put all our efforts and energies in creating awareness via Saathealth so that we can create swasth societies for India, which I think then will help the country meet its nutrition goals over the years.
Till today, Saathealth has reached out to more than 50,000 families and the organisation has over 110,000 app downloads with users spread across 25 cities in India.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.