The Union health ministry will launch an intensive awareness campaign on anemia, especially among adolescent population of the country. It is also planning to strengthen its adolescent health programme –the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK)—to make it more prevention-centric and monitorable.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health organised by the International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH) here, Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner (Adolescent Health), complained that not much has improved under the anemia control strategy and that “anemia continues to be a serious issue among adolescents”.
“One reason identified for this is that the programme was not being monitored,” he said. The ministry will now monitor its weekly Iron Folic Supplementation (WIFS) programme on IT-platforms. 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.
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 per cent of the adolescents in the country are now in schools and the percentage is increasing, Khera said. The RKSK is implemented at the facility, school and community level.
At present, students are screened in schools and then referred to health facilities under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) for early detection of diseases, particularly the non-communicable diseases (NCDs). 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, self-rated health (SRH), injuries and violence, nutrition, substance abuse and mental health.
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.” Mehra was also awarded Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Association of Adolescent Health at the conference.
A survey on ‘Understanding the Lives of Adolescents and Young Adults (UDAYA)’ 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) suggested that only 1 per cent of boys and girls knew about RKSK.
“Only one-third of the girls knew about sanitary napkins programme though only 10 per cent received their benefits. Only 22-24 per cent of boys and girls received health services/information at schools but almost all knew about anganwadi workers and 56-66 per cent knew about ASHA. Only 4-7 per cent of the boys and girls received health services provided by ASHAs and anganwadis,” it said.
The survey also said 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 such napkins, it said.
“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,” the study added.