2018 Young Entrepreneurs Awards Winner: Priya Prakash

Initiative: HealthSetGo

Country of impact: India

A business building India’s largest network of sustainable health-promoting schools with the vision to empower children to adopt healthy habits at a young age.

Priya Prakash was bullied at school for the way she looked. She had been overweight since she was a baby and, like many kids in India, grew up eating too many sweets and not doing enough exercise.

Being called names at school affected her self-esteem and her ability to study. “I would eat, starve myself, then binge-eat again. I fell into a cycle that never seemed to end,” she says.

Fast forward a few years and at the age of 26, Priya is healthy and confident. In fact, she’s a state-level weight-lifting champion.

Her journey inspired her to launch a business to help empower young people so they don’t go through what she did.

On a mission to prevent child obesity

With 14.4 million Indian children obese, thousands of them with type 2 diabetes, Priya is on a mission to help kids across the country. Her business HealthSetGo, which now employs 25 staff, offers schools a structured health benchmark programme.

First, it educates children on being healthy and offers guidance on good nutrition and mental health, as part of an activity-based school curriculum. Secondly, it monitors and records their health, giving parents and local health officers the digitised health data that enables them to better understand what changes are required to prevent the onset of problems.

‘It’s about lifestyle, not genetics’

So far, Priya’s programme is being used in schools across 77 Indian cities, helping more than 200,000 students and their parents in around 200 schools. More than 300 doctors and 200 teachers have been trained to use the programme too.

Non-communicable diseases are the No.1 cause of mortality in the world today, with India ranked at the top. “That’s about lifestyle, not genetics,” says Priya. “Prevention is achievable and it starts with the kids.”