As kids, we often had high hopes and dreamt of changing the world. We idolised superheroes; dressed up as our favourite heroes, and bought several action figures, just so we could feel like we walked in their shoes, and were capable of making a significant impact in the world around us. While this may sound silly to most people, the idea stuck with many even into their adult years. Many people are driven to make the world a better place, beginning at their immediate sphere of influence in the regions they reside. One of such people is Dr Monprativ Barooah, who is not just an Assam-based doctor, but a motivational speaker and social worker: a real life superhero. This is why we are featuring him today, on World Health Day.

Dr Monprativ got the passion and drive for social work from his father, who was actively involved in the welfare of the people in his town. “Despite my father being an octogenarian, he, with his own group of friends, ventured into nearby areas and surrounding villages in Tinsukia to help the needy. However, owing to his present health conditions he is now confined to his home and undergoing recovery and recuperation,” Dr Monprativ says.

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In addition to actively caring for the sick and needy in his community, Dr Monprativ runs an NGO: The Kalyankami Foundation. From this pedestal, he is able to do so much more, not just for the people in his immediate environment, but for people even outside his town. Speaking on his NGO’s mission, he says, “Kalyankami foundation is actually a voluntary organisation started by my father in Tinsukia with a group of elderly, like-minded friends. I brought this organisation to Duliajan since I am largely based here.

“We are now a group of 8 people running this organisation. We concentrate on school health programmes, geriatric care, and also try to create awareness in the field of health and hygiene. We have also been into flood relief. Kalyankami is still quite new in this sense and we are yet to register it,” he adds.

Dr Monprativ is quite popular on social media and his Facebook feed is filled with appreciation and praises for his motivational talks. He speaks on various subjects – from kids’ health to generic lifestyle habits to mental health and more.

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“I had a penchant for speaking right from my school days. Probably the numerous competitions in which I took part shaped and honed my skills. I used to be a regular anchor in cultural events during my college days at the Assam Medical College. I realised that Facebook is an excellent medium via which I can create awareness regarding preventive and holistic health and as I always had a belief in my delivery, went ahead with the idea,” he says with a smile.

With the ever-persistent ignorance surrounding psychiatry being treated as a neurobiological science, even among people in the medical community, it has become increasingly difficult for people genuinely battling with depression and anxiety to get the much-needed help. Whether that help may just be a safe space to talk and voice out their worries or medications to improve their illness, awareness is the first step. More people need to understand the basics of chronic depression and how to care for somebody who suffers from it. In his own words, the doctor says it best.

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“Believe me, 30% of the total number of patients that I see every day in my clinic have some sort of mental affliction, be it subclinical depression, generalised anxiety or other issues like chronic depression. It is how receptive you are as a person/physician to the person sitting in front of you that can make a sea of difference in the other person’s life. Awareness too holds the key in this aspect. We still get patients who turn to faith healers, baba ji and tantric for their mental illness.

Speaking further, Dr Monprativ gives a candid view about one of the most deadly mental health issues across the world. “Depression is just like diabetes and hypertension, and needs proper management and follow-up. This is a fact which is still being largely ignored. Yes, we need more awareness and even more motivation to help people with mental ailments. Remove the taboo and stigma associated with it. A strong social support system is the need of the hour.”

As is his usual style; having a solution for health problems, the inspiring doctor holds firmly to his oath. Dr Monprativ shares some useful tips to help people live better and healthy lives, especially during the pandemic. “Build your immunity.  Exercise regularly. Eat healthy – lots of leafy greens which are loaded with Vitamins B6 & B12. Avoid junk and greasy stuff which harbour inflammation. Eat at least 3 varieties of fruits everyday. Take in plenty of sunshine, and once a while go out to the rustic rural countryside and just lay your head on nature’s lap. Cut down on carbs and sugar as well as sweetened beverages. Maintain hygiene at all times. Basically, adopt a healthy lifestyle,” he says.

The health sector in Assam is still growing. Although the growth so far has largely been in the private sector, and restricted mainly to Guwahati, there are key areas that could use some more work, especially within the public health system. “As far as government healthcare is concerned, most of the hospitals and teaching institutions offer care but lack amenities for comfortable healthcare delivery to patients and their attendants. For example, a big hospital with the best of doctors won’t serve the purpose if its toilets remain unclean or there is no resting area for attendants. We need more thrust in the primary and secondary health care.  There is a need for more small nursing homes and mohalla clinics in the suburban and mofussil towns. Over and above the concept of the friendly neighbourhood doctor has to revive. The neighbourhood doctor is such an important and vital link in health care delivery as well as continuum of care, that it cannot be ignored at all.

“The hospitality of every hospital depends on the support services it offers like a decent nursing care, competent and caring health care attendants, ease of admission and of course a good cafeteria or canteen,” he says.

Sharing his thoughts on medical tourism in the region, Dr Monprative feels medical tourism has to be centred on secondary care and target small towns and districts. The support of the government would be pivotal in this regard.

Of late several youths are venturing into health entrepreneurship and the doctor feels this is indeed a great sign. “Health entrepreneurship offers tremendous scope as well as challenges. It should be tried upon by youths for it also can help in generating tremendous employment avenues. I have always been fascinated by entrepreneurs and their ventures. May be someday I will venture into something on my own,” he says.

While the challenges as a doctor Dr Monprativ faces on a daily basis has been varied and many. There are tales of victory, and dogmatism of determination and grit. However, as a doctor, he has realised that there is nothing like a lenient ear and a patient hearing. “Compassion and empathy are core to medical practice and at the very heart of every doctor’s clinical practice lie one cardinal aspect – a healthy and happy doctor-patient relationship,” he concludes.

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