Gautam Buddha once said, “To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
In order to keep the body in good health, it is also important to be knowledgeable about it. HELP (Health Education Library for Patients), a health education library in Mumbai, aims at educating patients about their illnesses in language and terms that don’t sound Greek or Latin.
Dr Aniruddha and Anjali Malpani, both gynaecologists, started HELP in 1997. The library, which can be accessed free of cost, is situated in South Mumbai. As a student of medicine in the United States, Aniruddha was struck by how knowledgeable patients were about ailments and drugs. That experience led him to start the library. A generous donation of the latest books on women’s healthcare from America landed at his doorstep after donors read about the initiative in a letter published by Prevention magazine.
“You don’t have to be Warren Buffett or Bill Gates to do philanthropy. Everyone can do it in their own way,” says Aniruddha.
Fifteen years on, HELP houses over 8,000 books, 13,000 pamphlets and newsletters and numerous DVDs on various ailments. Seminars and workshops are held twice a week by health experts. Anjoo Chandiramani, the library manager, ensures that videos of the same are uploaded on the website of the library within a week.
“The library has a very interactive online portal, where we at least know that the source of information is authentic,” says Murtuza Matiwala, who has been using the library for the past ten years.
In spite of being a house of knowledge, growth in the number of visitors has increased only in the past few years. The library was started with the hope that it would instantly create a buzz, considering that it had a lot of reliable reference material, that too free of cost. “When we started the place, we thought, ‘Wow, great place, service is free, hundreds of doctors would suggest that their patients go and get educated’, but that didn’t happen. Probably if I was not a doctor it would have done wonders, but I am happy I am doing my bit,” says Aniruddha.
But of late, its footfalls have increased. The library has nearly 11,000 members. There is a message on most handouts at HELP that people finally seem to have taken seriously: If you want to be treated like a VIP (very important person), be a VIP (very informed patient).