The first comprehensive adolescent health programme, also known as “Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram” was launched by the Government of India in January 2014. The basic objective was to emphasise on the physical, mental and sexual health of the adolescents of our country. The aim was also to provide health information and services so that all the diverse needs of the adolescents can be met. Prior to this, we also had had many other programmes initiated by the Government for the adolescents. To help adolescents to fulfil their dreams and capabilities, substantive investments must be made for their health, education, development and other areas.
The age between 11 and 19 years is referred to as the adolescence period. It is the transitional period of physical and psychological development that gradually moves from being a child to an adult. In India, there are more than 243 million adolescents, which comprises almost 22% of the country’s population. Young people in the age group of 19-24 years covers about one-third of the population of the country.
According to various reports, India has the largest population of adolescents in the world. Being a very sensitive period, it is the combined responsibility on the part of the Government, society, including parents and guardians, to nurture and harness the capabilities and energies of these adolescents in a proper way so that they grow up to be healthy, strong and useful citizens of the country.
I had come across an interesting write-up in which the word ADOLESCENT is described aptly:
- A – Aggressive, Anaemic, Abortion
- D – Dynamic, Developing, Depressed
- O – Overconfident, Overindulging, Obese
- L – Loud but Lonely & Lack information
- E – Enthusiastic, Explorative & Experimenting
- S – Social, Sexual, & Spiritual
- C – Courageous, Cheerful & Concern
- E – Emotional, Eager & Emulating
- N – Nervous, Never say no to peers
- T – Temperamental, Teenage pregnancy
The true face of Indian youths or adolescents
- Adverse Sex Ratio: 914 females per 1,000 males.
- Male domination
- Both tobacco and alcohol consumption prevalent among rural and urban youths, with rural youths taking the lead, combined with little or no education.
- One in every 1,000 youth is HIV positive, more common in females than in males.
- According to reports, only 54% of the young men and 28% of young women in the age group of 15 to 24 have knowledge about HIV/AIDS.
- More than 35% of AIDS cases occur in India among the age group 15-24 years.
- Approximately 1.7 million adolescents die every year due to AIDS, accidents, violence, illness and pregnancy related problems
- Half of the adolescents in India are involved in crimes like as rapes, robbery, pick pocketing etc.
Health problems of adolescents
- General illness
- Mental health problems
- Early and unprotected Sex
What do adolescents require?
- They need proper education in the process of growing up.
- They need ample guidance related to substance abuse, HIV, AIDS, pregnancy and other illness.
- All adolescents need life skills for self protection.
- They always need a safe and supportive environment, with better communication with parents, teachers, elders and society at large.
- It is necessary that there should be easily accessible and barrier free adolescent friendly health service centres in the country.
Government adolescent programmes
The Government has introduced a number of programmes for the betterment of the young children of our country. Some of these are:
- Women & Child Development: Balika Samridhi Yojana, Kishori Shakti Yojna, Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (SABLA)
- Human Resource Development: Adolescence Education Programme (AEP), National Population Education Project (NPEP)
- Youth Affairs & Sports: Adolescent Empowerment Scheme; National Service Scheme; National Programme for Youth and Adolescent Development (NPYAD)
- Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Programme
- Adolescent Health Programme
- Others like: Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 etc.
Objectives of adolescent programmes in India
The programmes aim at all adolescents, both boys and girls, who live in urban and rural areas. All these programmes aim at enabling them to make informed and responsible decisions related to their health and growth as a whole, and they are able to realize their full potential. Other components of the programme aim at providing comprehensive knowledge of sexual and reproductive health issues, anaemia, injuries, malnutrition, violence, other diseases, along with information on rapes and other crimes.
To conclude, the Government of India has no doubt been able to recognise the importance of the health of this group of population, which impacts the overall health, morbidity, mortality, and population growth scenario of the country. Investments in adolescents’ reproductive and sexual health, including mental and physical health, will definitely yield dividends in the long run, in terms of late marriage, reduced teenage pregnancy, reducing HIV prevalence, reducing maternal deaths and so on. Leaving aside the health objective, another basic requirement of these programmes is to emphasise on the psychological bent of mind of the teenagers so that there is also reduction of crimes in the country by juveniles.
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