India is home to 253 million adolescents in the age group 10-19 years in India. Two million of them belong to scheduled tribes living in underserved, rural areas. This age group include individuals in a brief phase of life requiring nutrition, education and counselling to ensure their growth into healthy adults. They are liable to several preventable and treatable health problems, like unintended pregnancy, nutritional disorders like malnutrition, anaemia & overweight, alcohol and drug abuse, mental health concerns and violence.
Health care issues—
Adolescents in rural areas have impoverished physical environment. Increasing child marriage and poor antenatal care among adolescents are critical challenges in improving reproductive health. More than half of adolescents are undernourished. About 58% of adolescent girls are anaemic.
Challenges for adolescent health programs: What needs to be done?
Conventionally, the adolescent age group (10–19 years) was considered a relatively healthy period of life. Although new infections and HIV frequency have been declining, the situation is still dire. Various health programs targeting adolescent health have been launched in the recent past.
In 2019, about 2.3 million adolescents were living with HIV, and about 265,000 became newly infected with the virus. Adolescents living with HIV has grown, by 40% in the last few years. AIDS is now the leading cause among young people worldwide.
Government of India has acknowledged the importance of influencing the health-seeking condition of adolescents. The health condition of this age group is a crucial determinant of India’s overall health, mortality and population growth scenario. Therefore, investments in the adolescent reproductive stage will yield dividends in terms of delaying the age at marriage, reducing the incidence of teenage pregnancy, reducing the maternal mortality and reducing HIV existence.
It will also help India realise its demographic dividends, as healthy adolescents are an essential resource for the economy.
Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram—
To establish a holistic development of the adolescent population, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK). The purpose is to reach out to the million adolescents – in rural and urban, married and unmarried, in and out-of-school adolescents—with special attention on marginalised groups. The scheme expands the scope of adolescent health programs in India. It now includes in its confines of nutrition and violence—non-communicable diseases. The energy of the program is its health promotion approach. Important drivers of the program are— community-based interventions such as—outreach by counsellors; facility-based counselling and empowering of “Adolescent Friendly Healthcare Clinics” across levels of care.
Attention is on reorganising the existing public health system to meet the needs of adolescents. Under this, a package of services includes preventive, promotive, curative and counselling services, routine check-ups at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care is provided regularly to adolescents, married and unmarried girls, girls, during the clinic sessions.
EKAM Foundation is an NGO, whose mission is to help the needy and underprivileged children, adolescents and mothers. The primary is not to replace but to supplement the Public health care system. Since the focus is on rural health, there have been gratifying results in terms of saving precious adolescent lives.
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