Government launches new health programme for adolescents

Earlier schemes were confined only to sexual and reproductive health, say health officials

 
By Kundan Pandey
Published: Wednesday 08 January 2014

The Union health ministry on Tuesday launched a community-intervention based health programme for adolescents. The programme, named Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK), aims at delivering services to youth from urban and rural areas, poor and affluent background and also to those in school or out of school. 

The Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, during the launch of the scheme in Delhi, said that the programme will comprehensively address the health needs of 243 million adolescents, who account for over 21 per cent of the country’s population.

Earlier schemes for adolescents were confined to sexual and reproductive health only, that too only for girls and available only at select government facilities. But the new scheme, officials claim, will bring in several new dimensions like mental health, nutrition, substance misuse, gender-based violence and non-communicable diseases. The scheme is for boys and girls, both.

‘From doctor-driven to participative model’

According to health secretary Keshav Desiraju, the programme is an effort to move away from a “doctor-driven” effort and towards a holistic and participative programme. “RKSK recognises that all adolescents need attention even before the occurrence of any disease or problem, and for making informed decisions and choices,” said the official. “We should learn from the experiences of ASHA workers. I hope the new programme will invest sufficient time and money to train the peer-educators,” he added. ASHA workers are the officials appointed under NRHM as Accredited Social Health Activists.

‘Change in behavior prevention against diseases’

Additional secretary and mission director of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Anuradha Sharma said that though adolescents are generally healthy, there are many diseases which have their root in behaviours acquired at this age. So, intervening on health issues in this phase of life can leave a considerable impact.

Providing treatment against non-communicable diseases like cancer and others is going to be tough even for rich countries in future. So, prevention is the best thing and that can be achieved through changes in behaviour. With this objective, the administration has planned to provide facilities for adolescents in the country.
 
The health official also explained that lifestyle and behaviour-related diseases such as substance abuse, inflicting self harm, tendency towards gender-based violence, low nutrition and physical inactivity begin and occur more during this phase. They are becoming the causes for the highest mortality in this age group. “In the coming years, seven out of ten deaths in developing countries will occur due to non-communicable diseases,” added Anuradha Gupta.

According to officials, active use of new technologies and social media platforms will form an integral part of the programme that aims to reach adolescents in their own spaces, with strategic partnerships with communities and peers.


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