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Towards well-being

What is it that compromises an adolescent’s health? Is it poverty, no access to healthcare or the right intervention methods? NGOs and facilitators working with young people all over the country say it’s a combination of all these factors. Youth in the 10-24 age group, constitute a large percentage of the population. Healthier than the other age groups, they are also more vulnerable to health risks, physical and mental, and also transitional problems as they grow towards adulthood in terms of education, work and expanding relations. At a recent Workshop for South Asian Journalists on Reproductive and Child Health: Issues and Perspectives, organised by the Population Foundation of India (PFI) and USAID, an overview of the various NGOs working in the field to ensure better adolescent health awareness revealed some interesting viewpoints of working with and for the young . 
Using resources 
Programmes designed for adolescent betterment must involve the community as well. The Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust with PFI had field trainers, known as the “Pehal Mitra”, to counsel young people in Uttaranchal on health ideas but integrated this with other important development issues like education, self development and employment. The programme innovated to involve communities and built crucial links with existing medical care facilitators, schools and the Panchayati Raj institutions. Using puppet shows, street plays and the radio made it reach a larger number of youth and people. The radio programmes were followed with discussions in the community by the field trainers.

Addressing young people’s reproductive and sexual rights involves the mapping of existing resources and constituting an effective team to address the issues in the field. CHETNA, the centre for health education, training and nutrition awareness partnered with the largest youth group in the country the Nehru Yuva Kendra, to address reproductive health issues through its existing network. Reaching out to children in the age group of 10 to 19 years, the focus group discussions held at the initial stages with the target group helped identify key areas and created a broader understanding of their needs for more focussed programmes. 

Local flavour 

Communication strategies have to be local in scope. The team from CHETNA that reviewed existing literature on reproductive rights realised that most couldn’t be used because they were in English. Nor was the material participatory in nature. The resource kit they designed was unique because there was no gender differentiation and the same sets were meant for boys and girls. 

There are a range of programmes in the country addressing youth health related issues. What sets apart each one of them is the areas and methods of intervention. Schools here can play an important role. Health experts suggest setting aside time within the academic calendar for health education. Teachers must be trained to handle such sessions. Ultimately, a nationwide sharing of positive lessons learnt and participation methods that worked will ensure a healthier adolescent community.


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