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This mother-daughter duo is offering free primary healthcare services to the poor

Started by Rani and Priya Desai in 2022, Bengaluru-based Anahat clinic is helping improve access to primary and preventive healthcare for the urban poor.

This mother-daughter duo is offering free primary healthcare services to the poor

Wednesday May 15, 2024 , 6 min Read

At 11 in the morning, a small rented medical clinic in Bengaluru was buzzing with commotion as it was packed with a large group of people. While some waited to check their blood pressure, others were waiting for their turn for blood tests and to consult with the doctor.

This is the usual scene at Anahat Clinic, located in Shantinagar, Bengaluru.

Started by mother-daughter duo Rani Desai (70) and Priya (40) in 2022, the clinic aims to improve access to primary and preventive healthcare for the urban poor.

Anahat clinic offers free treatment to the urban poor by identifying, preventing, and counselling the patients suffering from chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and hypertension, among others.

The clinic was started under the Anahat Foundation, which was started seven years ago to offer preventive and primary healthcare to the rural population through health camps.

“Ensuring access to primary and preventive healthcare is essential because it’s the bedrock of our medical system, keeping people healthy and thriving. Additionally, it avoids the escalation of various health problems,” Priya Desai tells SocialStory.

A desire to do good

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Priya Desai

Reflecting on her transition to the social development sector from advertising, Priya says, “I wanted to do something impactful.”

After completing her journalism degree, she started working as a copywriter in the advertising industry. A little over five years later, she shifted to the social development sector, following her “inner calling”.

For the last 15 years, she has been actively involved in the social development sector, focusing her efforts on addressing various problems like water issues alongside organisations such as India Water Portal, Arghyam, and others.

Among the many reasons for choosing public service, Priya says her mother’s interest in the healthcare industry and her desire to help people were crucial factors.

Elucidating further, Priya shares that their common interest in public service birthed the idea to start Anahat Foundation in 2017.

While conducting health camps, they observed that a significant number of people suffered from chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

“Because these camps are not that frequent in nature, providing continuous healthcare intervention and treatment to such patients was a challenge,” she adds.

This realisation prompted them to establish the Anahat Clinic in 2022.

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The clinic offers primary and preventive healthcare for the urban poor.

A psychology graduate, Rani joined the advertising industry after completing her studies. However, she used to always be gravitated towards healthcare. She later worked as the Head of Biocon Foundation for more than 12 years. She is also the managing committee member and volunteer at Kutumba, an NGO in Bengaluru.

“When I was young, I used to accompany my mother who used to work in a hospital. I used to sit there waiting for her shift to get over. During that time, I used to closely see how she performed her tasks. I believe that this exposure to the healthcare system sparked my interest in this field,” says Rani.

At the foundation, Rani manages the operations and crafts public health programmes, and Priya handles communications and funding for the foundation.

Reflecting on their challenges, Priya says that lack of resources in the public healthcare system weakens people’s confidence in free healthcare.

“We had to build a trust value among people and eventually the word spread on its own,” she says.

Moreover, managing funds has been another big challenge.

“Earlier, we used to be hand to mouth, but now we are doing better. However, finances still seem to be a challenge,” Rani adds.

Rani emphasises that quality primary healthcare is meant to be free and easily accessible to all. Highlighting the importance of free healthcare, Priya elaborates on a particular case.

Arumugam, a 65-year-old waste picker, came with his foot infected and swollen. His condition gradually got worse over four months. He had not got it checked because he did not have access to healthcare. It turned out that Arumugam had undiagnosed diabetes, which led to a diabetic foot ulcer. By the time he came for treatment, it was too late and his foot had to be amputated.

The clinic arranged his hospitalisation and his surgery was covered by insurance.

The amputation forced Arumugam to stop working, shifting the burden to his wife Kanakamma.

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Providing free primary and preventive healthcare

The clinic lets people consult with a qualified allopathic doctor, gives free medicines, and provides lab tests including-blood tests, urine tests, X rays, and more. For this, the clinic has partnered with Aarthi Scans and Labs in Bengaluru.

They also offer awareness and preventive health workshops for patients suffering from diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, and mental health issues.

“We get around 70 to 80 people daily. People come with problems like scabies, minor injuries, chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes,” Dr Rohith TG who works at the clinic, says.

The clinic has also employed a nutritionist who conducts workshops consisting of 8 modules, focusing on helping patients reduce salt, sugar, and oil in their diets.

Apart from teaching simple exercises to patients, the workshops also provide a detailed explanation of the causes of the disease and its symptoms.

The clinic has a councellor on board who helps raise awareness about depression, anxiety, and stress.

Priya explains that many of the people coming for treatment are labourers and they often complain about chronic pain. Therefore, the clinic has boarded a physiotherapist as well.

The awareness sessions are conducted in batches of 20 people, three times a week. The councellor and physiotherapist come to the clinic once a week.

Jabeen Taj, a 48-year-old woman, had high blood pressure and high sugar levels.

A tailor in Shantinagar, she is the sole breadwinner in her family. She says that she earns enough to support her family, but spending on healthcare is an extra burden.

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They also offer awareness and preventive health workshops for patients suffering from chronic diseases,

Attending the awareness workshops, consulting at the clinic, and taking medicines prescribed by the doctor has improved her health, she says.

“My medicine dose has been reduced now. Thanks to the awareness sessions, I was able to understand my condition better. This helped me alter my daily lifestyle. Additionally, having these services available free of cost has lessened my financial burden as well,” she says.

So far, the clinic, which is registered under the Karnataka Private Medical Establishment, Bengaluru Urban, has offered free healthcare to more than 11,000 people.

Recently, Priya and Rani won a grant of Rs 10 lakh at the SVP (Social Ventures Partners) India Fast Pitch 2024, a virtual fundraiser event. The duo is open to raising more funds for the clinic.

Edited by Megha Reddy