– Paromita Sengupta (Bengaluru)
Delhi/Canon City, Colorado (USA)-based public health evangelist Dr. Rahul Mehra is the founder-promoter of Tarang Health Alliance (THA, estb.2016), a non-profit promoted with the mission to develop innovative content and train teachers to implement THA’s comprehensive health education curriculum — covering physical, mental and social well-being — in schools countrywide.
Mehra was recently appointed India’s national representative to the UNESCO Global Health and Education programme which produces and shares knowledge to improve the health of children and youth worldwide.
Newspeg. Empowered by CSR (corporate social responsibility) funding and a grant from the Rotary Foundation, last June after training their teachers, THA introduced online health education programmes for class VI students of three schools — Bluebells International School, Raghav Global School and Soami Nagar Model School — in the national capital.
“We are studying the impact of the programme on health knowledge and behaviour in Bluebells International which will be evaluated at the end of the academic year after completion of a minimum 40 hours of health education. Moreover, monthly parent engagement meetings are being conducted during which we provide healthy nutrition, physical activity and mental health advice to parents,” says Mehra.
History. An alum of India’s premier IIT-Kharagpur with a Ph D in bio-medical engineering awarded by New York University, USA, Mehra has over three decades of experience as a research scientist in the medical industry and academia (Medtronic Inc, Minneapolis, Montefiore Hospital, Bronx, Brooklyn VA Medical Center and Manhattan College, New York) and has registered 75 patents in his name.
Direct talk. Mehra attributes the low longevity (average 69 years) of Indians — significantly lower than of China, Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh — to unhealthy lifestyles and practices. “Healthy lifestyles need to be developed from childhood. Therefore, THA’s goal is to make health education mandatory in all K-12 schools. Over the past five years since I promoted THA, I have invested substantial time in deeply researching educational pedagogies, health education in the US and India, and have also published four student workbooks and teacher manuals for class VI-VII children in our pilot project. I am delighted the National Education Policy, 2020 proposes that health education is included in school curriculums,” says Mehra.
Future plans. Looking ahead, Mehra has ambitious plans for THA. “First, we plan to write student workbooks and teacher manuals for classes K-XII, then scale up our programme and develop a financially sustainable model. To begin with, we intend to work with CBSE and Delhi government schools and gradually with schools affiliated with other education boards. For training teachers, our plan is to certify them on health education as well as explore the possibility of starting our own teacher training institution,” says Mehra, clearly an individual with focused vision.