Working for a healthier tomorrow

The Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council provides medical services to people in need in India.

The Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation this summer awarded Elk Grove twins Sukhdev and Harjeet Mann a $15,000 scholarship for their implementation of a Global Health Education Project based in India.

With a population size of more than one billion people in India, there are so many people who receive inadequate healthcare and have little awareness of resources to improve their health, especially through their diet.

Partnering with the international nonprofit Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council (NSWC), their focus will be on health literacy devoted to nutrition and anemia along with chronic diseases to uplift the underserved communities primarily in Delhi.

NSWC, a nonprofit based in India, leads free healthcare services to the population, their primary focus being Delhi with their established Delhi Medical Center to alleviate health expenses and provide literacy resources, according to a press release.

The twins established the first university chapter of NSWC at U.C. Davis called Nishkam Sewa with global health education being one of the several initiatives. Through videos, online media and printed materials, they want to mobilize every individual to take control of their health.

Coming from an Indian background, Harjeet said that in her mind she always wanted to give back to her parents’ home country, but there was not much opportunity there. As the twins got involved with NSWC, they thought bringing a mobile clinic would be something to work toward. However, with COVID-19, their plans have changed and rather are focusing on public health and health education.

“One of the main things for me is food and nutrition, and coming from an Indian background, much of the traditional Indian diet is heavy in fat and sugar, especially for desserts. Even in my family history, there’s heart disease and diabetes,” Harjeet said.

Over time they have seen how the power of health education has impacted their loved ones, which has encouraged their focus on nutrition.

“When we go there, there’s availability for fresh food but not knowing how much to portion out nor knowing what might be better to eat and how you can buy more quality over quantity,” Harjeet said.

She added that they have seen resources here in the U.S. pale in comparison to those in India and the impact it’s had on the students involved with healthcare services.

“The students who already come from poor backgrounds can’t focus on improving those areas. In part, that really inspired us,” Harjeet said.

Also, of inspiration, is her personal health and knowing she’s not alone.

“I had a lot of problems of being low iron, and being vegetarian,” Harjeet said. “I know a lot of women from Indian backgrounds might be facing this problem, and just getting the awareness out about that and what kind of food we should be eating. “(It’s the) same for diabetes because that’s a prevalent health problem in our community, global or local. There’s malnutrition in a lot of the students, too.”  

With the grant money they are thinking of bringing laptops students in India whereby they will then digitally send information about health and wellness, be it through videos, an online cookbook, flyers or written text.

“We would set up a cohort of students where we could work with them and those students where we could work with them and those students would be through the nonprofit and we would work with them and identify students, children, college students who we can provide electronics to. Many students might not have access to those resources,” Harjeet explained.

The electronics would also be used beyond the health education, but for education, in general.

“Having those resources will really help people who are not up-to-date with everything. Being able to help students in many different ways is what we were thinking about,” she said.

The twins have both journeyed academics together since elementary school and are both interested in going into the health field. They both graduated as valedictorians from Cosumnes Oaks High School in 2018.

As Harjeet said, “Pretty much academically we’ve done everything together. In both of our minds, we talked about not wanting one of us to go forward and the other not. We would just feel bad if one got recognition for their hard work but the other didn’t.”