Basundhara (not her real name) often comes to the press club for meeting friends and kill extra time. Though she is working in the news desk of an Assamese newspaper, she had never worked as a mainstream reporter. But coming to press club she finds friends from both the print and television media and take the opportunity to hang out happily.

In one such appearance at the press club premises, I asked her to check her thyroid level in our weekly evening out-patient-department (OPD) clinic that has been organized regularly organized since August 2016. Reluctantly Basundhara gave blood samples to the attending health workers. She also got her blood pressure and sugar checked in the camp.

Next day, the laboratory reports arrived at the press club office and Basundhara took away her one. In the evening hours, when I was busy tracking a news, she called me and before saying anything she started sobbing. It was astonishing as the jolly girl felt so nervous while speaking to me.

'What happened', she replied to my query with revelation that she was diagnosed with high thyroid (stimulating hormone) level and hence she was losing energy, joyfulness and gaining unusual weight. I just tried to console her that it was not a big deal. Every fourth Indian today suffers from thyroid related problems, but that can be treated with proper medical intervention.

Sailesh (name changed) normally comes to the press club only when there is a meeting of media persons as he lives at the outskirt of Guwahati. Once he arrives, Sailesh continues his natural lecturing with me on numerous issues irrespective of my interest. Not young at his age now, Sailesh he is a confirmed bachelor and claims that his big family would support him always.

In one of our Saturday media clinics Sailesh casually checked his blood pressure. The nurse widened her eyes looking at the meter. Sailesh was diagnosed with hypertension (almost 180 by 110 mmHg). The attending doctor wanted to check his pressure and did it personally. The outcome remained the same.

The doctor asked if Sailesh had checked his pressure earlier. The answer was a big no. He had never checked it and justified his point that 'listening to doctors was an unnecessary exercise as he had always enjoyed good health condition'. He even denied accepting his blood pressure readings.

The doctor, mush younger to Sailesh, called me and requested to convince him that it was very dangerous to live with such high blood pressures as it could cause great harm to him. I asked Sailesh, who is my contemporary in the professional journalism, to listen to the doctor and follow the guidelines. For the sack of my advice, he listened to the doctor but refused to take medicines.

After almost a week, Sailesh came to the press club. He looked depressed with untidy dresses. I could see a small bandage on his head. 'What', Sailesh narrated a long story to my question. The substance is that he fell down at his home two days back and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the attending doctors cautioned him about his hypertension.

Sailesh survived this time with no internal injuries, which is often reported when an individual suddenly tumbles because of high blood pressure. He admitted his guilt for not taking the doctor's advice seriously earlier and even showed me a strip of medicines, which he had started using regularly.

One can find a number of cases if goes through the record of Guwahati Press Club, which has launched the unique healthcare awareness programs last year. One of the active press clubs of northeast India, the organization has over 300 regular members who are mostly professional journalists working for local, national and international media outlets.

Besides few regular programs like 'Meet the Press', 'Guest of the Month', 'Media Fellowship', 'Health Camp' etc, the 40 years old organization started a new weekly program titled 'Evening with a Doctor' in August 2016 with an aim to spread health awareness to its members along with their close relatives.

Under this program, a practicing physician is welcome to the press club premises on every Saturday evening , where the attending doctor interacts and also offered free health related consultations to the member-journalists with their families. Often screenings of weight, hypertension, blood sugar, bone density, pulmonary function, thyroid levels etc are organized and arranged for follow-up consultations. Started with initial supports from Dr Jayanta Bardoloi, managing director of Assam's well known Dispur Hospital in raising a doctor's chamber at the club premises, the series of health camps have already emerged as a healthy hangout for the media persons. The endeavor has also helped diagnosing many journalists and their dependants with alarming high blood pressure, sugar and thyroid disorders. They were accordingly advised by the physicians for follow up actions.

Till date, physicians from a number of healthcare institutions of the country like Apollo Chennai Hospital, Chennai SIMS Hospital, Manipal Bangalore Hospital, Fortis Hospital Bangalore, Medanta the Medicity Hospital, Down Town Hospital, GNRC Hospitals, Dispur Hospital, Nemcare Hospital, Hayat Hospital, Ayursundra Hospital, Sun Valley Hospital, Barthakur Clinic, Wintrobe Hospital, Narayana Hospital, Excelcare Hospital, Sight First Eye-Clinic etc have attended the weekly camps. Over 90% media persons in the alienated region remain out of medical insurance coverage. Most of the journalists, engaged with regional newspapers and news channels, earn compromised salaries and nominal other benefits. Hence they cannot afford medical expenditures and often depend on financial supports from the government and donations from well wishers whenever there are medical emergencies in their families.

Even though the evening camps are being organized for the benefit of our members with their relatives, any journalist of the region (also the country) with their dependants are welcome to take the advantage of the clinics. Moreover the other media organizations including the press clubs of the region are being encouraged to take similar initiatives for enhancing the health status their members and also empowering the health journalism in this part of the populous country. Nevertheless recently John (a rural journalist from Meghalaya) came to meet me at the press club. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was talking to the invited doctor just before starting the weekly clinic. Quite naturally I asked John to check his blood sugar. Initially he declined saying, 'I am fine; what is your inherent intention!'

But later he agreed and was subsequently diagnosed with high sugar level (almost 400 mg/dL). The doctor had a long conversation with John, who was at his fifties. Once the session is over, a nervous John came out of the chamber and made an outright comment on me, "Dost (friend), you make me a sick person from today. God bless you".

The author is an Assam based journalist and Secretary, Guwahati Press Club.