Fat-Shamed as a Child, She Launched a Social Enterprise to Track the Health of Indian Schoolkids

Having won her own childhood battle with weight, Priya Prakash founded India’s first health monitoring service for schoolchildren.

By Uttara J Malhotra

She was a young girl body-shamed to the brink of breakdown. For Priya Prakash, growing up with a fairly plump body was no child’s play. “It wreaked havoc on my personality and psychology, and left me alienated, longing for friends,” shares the vivacious 27-year-old, who turned her fight with unhealthy eating habits into a lifelong mission to impart health education to children in schools.

Today, her innovative startup HealthSetGO offers comprehensive health services to Indian private schools at a nominal annual charge. Manned by a team of 25, it is present in over 200 schools in 77 cities across India, where it rolls out a full set of healthcare services for growing children. Most of these are privately run schools.

Priya is also one of 21 finalists of the 2019 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative, an award that recognises and celebrates young women achievers who are making a contributive difference to society through their entrepreneurial journeys.

As an adolescent, Priya never imagined her erratic lifestyle would become a major point of concern for her overall well-being. “My entire joint family was fond of food, and the youngsters often indulged in binge eating,” she shares.

Priya-Prakash-2The desire to find self and joy became more evident once Priya moved away from competitive Delhi schools to Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, founded by Krishnamurthi Foundation of India. “Here, I could find perspective to my inner turmoil. I had a desire to introspect,” shares Priya.

In the words of the school’s founder J. Krishnamurti, inward and outward development of a child is what will create a rounded citizen. Taking inspiration from this thought, Priya finished her high-school education at Rishi Valley and decided to start her own venture.

The turning point came about when Priya joined a gym while in college, and met an instructor who trained her to use her weight to her advantage. She went on to become a weightlifter and won the silver medal at the Delhi State Weightlifting Championship in 2017. By this time, her venture HealthSetGo was already catching momentum.

“Most parents ignore the general health checkup routines of their child once he or she turns six. Today, children are dealing with stress disorders, early onset of Vitamin D3/B12 deficiencies, thyroid, weak cornea and eye issues, calcium deficiency… the list can go on. With our initiative, we do preventive intervention, making the parent aware in real time,” explains Priya.

Priya-Prakash3But the journey was an uphill task, “owing to the fact that most schools are preoccupied with academic performance, and consistent health monitoring takes a backseat.” Priya began speaking to one principal at a time, and is now covering schools outside Delhi-NCR. She has recently also signed up with government schools in Chennai.

Run as a professionally managed, self-sustaining social enterprise, where a team of doctors conduct checkup routines, HealthSetGo charges a nominal Rs 500 per annum per child for checkups as well as interactive health and nutrition workshops. The online platform stores every child’s health data, providing smart analytics and insights to enhance communication between a school and the parent.

It also develops added-value applications, such as curated family health journeys. All this is accessible to the parent through an application on their smart devices and can be accessed at any point of time. “Room for error is negligible. Work is quick and data is easy to feed in,” adds Priya.

She is now rolling out an online training kit offering instructional videos, manuals and 32 weeks of workouts to 30,000 students in 1,000 pre-schools.

First published in eShe’s June 2019 issue

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