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India to launch awareness campaign on anemia

Oct 30, 2017

The government is in the process of making adolescent health programme more monitorable and prevention centric.

New Delhi: The Indian government is all set to launch an intensive demand generation campaign to create awareness among people on anemia, particularly the adolescent population.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is also planning to mould its adolescent health intervention--the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK)—to make it promotion and prevention-centric and monitorable.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health being organized by the International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH), Dr Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner (Adolescent Health), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said it has been seen that not much has improved under the anemia control strategy and anemia continued to be a serious issue among adolescents. “One reason identified for this was that the programme was not being monitored,’’ he said.

The Ministry now aims at monitoring its Weekly Iron Folic Supplementation (WIFS) programme on IT-platforms to see how successful it was. Importantly, the Ministry will soon launch a big demand generation programme to help create awareness among the people which not only adversely impacts their physical growth but their cognitive growth as well.

Also, the focus of the Intensified School Health Activity (ISHA) under the RKSK programme will now be on prevention and promotion rather than clinical treatment at present. These decisions were taken during a review meeting on RKSK, where it was decided that schools should be made the platforms for implementing adolescent health programmes since 60% of the adolescents in the country were now in schools and the percentage was increasing, Dr Khera said.

The RKSK is implemented at the facility, school and community level. At the facility level, Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics (AFHCs), Resource Centres at the district levels and Adolescent Health Counselors at the Block level are the core components.

Addressing those gathered at the conference, Dr. Sunil Mehra, Executive Director, MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child said, “We need to intervene early and continue with age specific programming till adolescents turn into young adults.” At the World Congress, Dr. Mehra was awarded the IAAH Founder's Award by the International Association of Adolescent Health.

At the school level, Intensified School Health Programme (ISHA), WIFS, health screening and menstrual hygiene are focused while Peer Education Programme, Adolescent Health Days, Adolescent Friendly Clubs and WIFS and MHS (for out of school beneficiaries) are being implemented. At present, the students are screened in schools and then referred to health facilities under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) for early detection of diseases, particularly non-communicable diseases.

A Saathiya Toolkit under the Community Peer education programme was also launched at the World Congress on Friday. The Toolkit—available in physical and electronic versions – focuses on six broad themes of the RKSK such as NCDs, SRH, injuries and violence, nutrition, substance abuse and mental health.

The toolkit can be downloaded from the website and customised by the States to suit their specific requirements. “We will make the programme non-judgmental,’’ Dr Khera said.

A survey on ‘Understanding the Lives of Adolescents and Young Adults’ (UDAYA) done by The Population Council on young adolescents (10-14 years) in Uttar Pradesh (1,961 boys and girls) and Bihar (1,776 boys and girls) suggests that only 1 per cent boys and girls knew about RKSK. Only one-third of the girls knew about sanitary napkins programme though only 10 per cent received benefits. Only 22-24 per cent of boys and girls received health services/information at school but almost all knew about anganwadi workers and 56-66% knew about ASHA. Only 4-7 per cent of boys and girls received health services provided by ASHAs and anganwadis.

The survey further showed that close to 2.4 million adolescents in these two States inflicted self-harm, 1.9 million showed symptoms of depression and 0.4 million had even considered suicide, and many had a worrying mental health condition.

Most girls reported using pieces of cloth during menstruation, while half of those who did not use sanitary napkins could not afford one, and a quarter was not aware of sanitary napkins.

A significant minority reported sexual and reproductive health problems with more boys than girls reporting a problem – one in 6 vs one in 10. Boys are three times more likely compared to girls to seek treatment with private facility being the preferred choice for seeking treatment.

The burden of nutrition is heavy in these two States with about 6.6 and 12.0 million very young boys and girls being anemic and 1.2 million and 2.8 million being severely anemic respectively in these two States.

Injury was reported by a large number of early adolescents – one-third boys and one-fifth girls. Half of the boys and slightly less proportion of girls were beaten by their parents. Similar proportion was involved in physical fight with another boy/girl. Substance use was high among boys than girls.

“Young people and adolescents are the future of the society, but also as much the present. Adolescents who are healthy are better equipped to contribute to the society. We need more investments in adolescent health - from action, to commitment, which lead to transformation,” said, Dakshitha Wickremarathne, Youth Advocate from Sri Lanka in his keynote address at the plenary session.

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