He wanted to join the postal service when he was a young boy. But Araveeti Ramayogaiah became a doctor and started writing letters to spread awareness among the people about health issues.
For almost 25 years Dr Araveeti Ramayogaiah wrote and sent postcards to India’s poor, especially women, telling them about ways to prevent, rather than cure, diseases.
The postcards were Ramayogaiah’s alternatives to private hospitals, which are mostly inaccessible for the poor people in India.
He explained about the basic habits from washing hands, boiling water and how to prevent 80 per cent of diseases in India that are waterborne and airborne.
“He would say doctors are creating iatrogenic (caused by treatment) diseases. First they give medicines, that causes side-effects, so more medicines…and that’s a vicious cycle,” said Rama Devi, a doctor at Gandhi Medical College and Hospital in Hyderabad.
In the year 2011, he wrote this in a column for The Hindu newspaper:
In the name of evidence-based medicine and defensive medicine, we order a battery of investigations even for trivial symptoms… Unnecessary tests are a loathsome burden on patients and, at times, result in false positive results leading to unscientific treatment.
Ramayogaiah wrote his first postcard when he was working on the paediatric ward of Chittor’s Government Headquarters. He worked in that hospital from 1990 till 1998.
He always made efforts to educate the mothers about the safety measures regarding the birth of their babies.
At the hospital, he was also connected to the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, an initiative to encourage women to breastfeed infants.
Roughly 2,500 women used to deliver babies every month, and typically, they would return to their homes in the nearby villages after the delivery.
His idea worked. Women would often return to the hospital for the vaccinations and profusely thank him.
“These were mostly uneducated women. So the postmaster who would be delivering the letter would read them aloud for them,” Sujana said. “At that time, he sent some 1,500 postcards.”
In a 2012 article, Ramayogaiah propounded that there are eight components of primary healthcare (PHC) that will help in prevention of all maladies.
- Promotion of food supplies and proper nutrition,
- Education about health problems and their control,
- Safe water supply,
- Basic sanitation,
- Mother and child health including family planning,
- Immunisation against infectious diseases and injuries,
- Prevention and control of locally endemic diseases,
- Treatment of common diseases and injuries.
But the man who spread awareness among others, was diagnosed from a deadly brain tumour. He passed away in September this year, aged 65.
His mission, however, is being carried forward by volunteers.