HELP needs Help

Dr. Aniruddha Malpani sent me this email. Perhaps readers can offer some suggestions.

HELP, the Health Education Library for People ( is the world’s largest free patient education library. We started in 1997, and now have over 9000 books and 500 videos on all health and medical topics. However, even though it is located in the heart of Bombay, India’s medical center, and is the only library of its kind in India, what breaks my heart is that it’s utilised so poorly.

I attribute this to a lack of awareness , because I still strongly believe patients want ( and need !) to know a lot about their medical problems, and we can provide them this information so they can get better medical care from their doctor.

I feel we have done a poor job with marketing the library, and need help with this, so that more people will make use of our free resources. This is a problem – but also an opportunity !

Some of our problems, as I perceive them.

1. We are a free service, and it’s hard to market anything which is free, because people do not perceive anything which is available free as being of value

2. Some people say that Indians don’t read any more and libraries are obsolete. I don’t agree – bookstores are doing very well, and book sales are increasing in India

3. Some people say that patients are too busy to come to a library. Again, I disagree. I feel patients ( and their relatives) will take a lot of time and trouble to ensure they are getting good medical care – there is too much at stake, for them not to do so !

4. Some critics feel that google has made libraries redundant, because the information is easily available at the click of a button. In fact, it’s the google searcher who is out target audience. We are looking for the intelligent patient, who needs to verify what his doctor has told him. The problem with google is that websites are often too unreliable, and patients cannot separate the wheat from the chaff. By contrast, a good book is worth its weight in gold !

So, any suggestions? You can comment on this post or email Dr. Malpani at

Pure and Actionable Information

Atanu Dey distinguishes between the two types of information:

Actionable information is something that enables a decision to be made and action is prompted as a result. Pure information is something that does not result in an immediate response or action. Pure information is good to know as opposed to actionable information which is need to know. Economists may call pure information a luxury good, while actionable information is a basic good. Since the rich typically spend a greater percentage on luxury goods, and the poor a greater percentage on basic goods, it is obvious that the poor will spend relatively more on actionable information as opposed to pure information.

Examples of pure and actionable information is not independent of a person, naturally, given that information is personal. However, just to take an example, cricket scores are pure information unless you are a bookie and need to settle accounts. The price of fish at a particular market along the Kerala coast is actionable information to a fisherman out at sea because it affects his decision where to land his catch. The busy stock analyst catching up with the latest political news while commuting to work is consuming pure information, and he is willing to pay for it even though he will not take any immediate action on it. But getting news on his cell phone is a luxury that the fisherman would not be willing to pay for.