Dr. Saraswathi Sankaran
Founder & Chairperson, DESH
What started off in 1985 as an advocacy campaign for Reproductive and Child Health and a ‘no risk’ lifestyle to prevent HIV/AIDS even before the first case of HIV was diagnosed, has today mushroomed into a health movement led by Dr. Saraswathi Sankaran, who founded Deepam Educational Society for Health (DESH) in 1991. Dedicating herself to the service of the community, through DESH, she has been tirelessly enhancing the social and life skills to bring about attitudinal and behavioural changes by mobilizing communities with prevention and intervention health programs, utilizing cultural factors rather than biological factors to improve their health seeking behaviour. These health programs include, ‘MARCH’ – Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive and Child Health program to reduce the incidence of malnutrition, maternal and infant mortality; ‘AROGYAM’ – comprehensive rural health care program addressing Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases; ‘HAPPY’ – Health Action Program for Progress of Youth to reduce the vulnerability of substance use/abuse among youth; ‘CHIP’ – Comprehensive Road Safety, First-aid and Health Intervention program for truck drivers and community; Health program to address marginalized communities including sex workers, etc.; and to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS. DESH has pan India presence and through its programs has reached out directly to over 3.8 million persons and indirectly to several millions in communities spread over 21 States and 2 Union Territories.