Govt launches programme for adolescent health

New Delhi: The government Tuesday launched a health programme for adolescents, in the age group of 10-19 years, that would target their nutrition, reproductive health and substance abuse, among other issues.

The Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram programme for 343 million adolescents (21 per cent of the country's population) was launched by Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Azad said the programme would initially cater to reproductive sexual health of adolescents in select government facilities and later expanded to include nutrition, injuries and violence,including gender-based violence, non-communicable diseases, mental health and substance abuse.

RKSK would introduce community-based interventions through peer educators and is underpinned by collaborations with other ministries and state governments, knowledge partners and more research, he said.

Referring to RMNCH+A (Reproductive, Maternal, New born, Child Health+Adolescent) unveiled last year in Mahabalipuram, the Health Minister said the new focus on adolescents was in recognition of the fact that without adolescent health, maternal and child health outcomes continue to be affected.

Health Secretary Keshav Desiraju said the programme will move away from a 'doctor-driven' effort towards a holistic and participative programme. RKSK recognises that all adolescents need attention even before the occurrence of any disease or problem, and in order to make informed decisions and choices, he said.  

Highlighting its features and the need for an enhanced and sharper focus on adolescents, Additional Secretary and Mission Director, NRHM, said lifestyle and behaviour related diseases like substance abuse, inflicting self-harm, tendency towards gender-based violence, low nutrition and physical inactivity, which begin and occur more during this phase, are fast becoming causes for the highest mortality in this group.

She said in the coming years in developing countries, seven out of 10 deaths will be due to non-communicable diseases.

The RKSK programme defines an adolescent as a person between 10-19 years of age, in urban and rural areas, includes both girls and boys, married and unmarried, poor and affluent, whether they are in school or out of school.

This broad definition helps to address the myriad problems of adolescents across various groups and categories, she said.

The programme emphasises on seven 'C's -- coverage, content, communication, counselling, clinics and convergence.

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

The Health Minister also launched handbooks on strategy frameworks which includes the framework for monitoring, supervision and evaluation of the programme once it is rolled out, the handbook on operational framework which will help to translate the programme into action, and the resource pack for the ANMs, ASHAs, medical officers, LHVs and peer educators.

Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, Kate Gilmore and UNFPA representative for Bhutan and India Frederika Meijer were also present at the three-day national adolescent health consultation that started here Tuesday.