YPSILANTI, MI – Harshini Anand’s passion for public health probably exceeds what you’d expect in a typical teenager.
Anand, 16, from Ypsilanti, is a member of the Health for All Steering Committee and an active volunteer in the Washtenaw County Health Department of Directors.
When the aspiring senior of Washtenaw International High School needed to develop a class project that had a positive impact on the community, it was no surprise that she turned to public health and $ 15,000 in fundraising to cover medical debt for Eliminate families across Michigan.
“Fortunately, I’ve never known anyone in my personal life who has been affected by medical debt, but I understand it’s a general problem,” Anand said.
When it came time to pick a reason for her community-based project, Anand said she was inspired by a story she read about a woman who nearly died of injuries in a serious car accident and ran so much medical debt would have that she couldn’t have paid it off while she was alive.
“What caught my eye in this article was that she wished she had never made it out of the hospital because she would have to spend the rest of her life paying off this gigantic debt,” she said.
“I think that was the most terrifying and heartbreaking thing for me – that the system that is supposed to support people and make sure they are healthy is the very system that weighs them down and leads them to these very negative desires.”
In his search for an organization that would most effectively help clear medical debt, Anand took inspiration from the HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” which created a similar profile about breaking medical debt and medical debt at the same time worth $ 15 million bought and waived. for 9,000 people.
The episode took her to RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that uses donations to buy medical debts in large, bundled portfolios and then forgive them for pennies on the dollar. To date, RIP Medical Debt has eliminated nearly $ 5 billion in medical debt, providing financial aid to 2.8 million people and families.
That means Anand’s fundraising efforts, undertaken primarily through contacting people, businesses, and organizations on her personal network, have helped pay off more than $ 1.5 million in medical debt for families across Michigan .
Her history of volunteering with public health organizations and the fundraiser inspired her to pursue a career in the field, Anand said.
“Just having these options has broadened my perspective and understanding of how the system works as a whole,” she said.
As a member of the Health For All steering committee, Dayna Brimley, community health analyst with the Washtenaw Department of Health, said Anand gave her the opportunity to examine data and a wide range of different health determinants that affect the community.
The experience of hearing stories about the life experiences of other members of the community, Brimley said, ultimately led Anand to seek other ways to positively impact her community.
“She is a very dedicated young member of our society and I think her Steering Committee membership, as well as all of her work in these other areas, really speaks of her deep commitment to improving her community,” Brimley said. “I know her thoughts are always very moving when she is on the committee. She says things that make everyone else stop and think. “
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