Invest in the architects of an emerging new India
India is home to 253 million adolescents. it is up to us to create the right, enabling opportunities for them
India is hosting the 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health from October 27 to 29. Given the large adolescent demographic of the world and India, this meet could not have been better timed. It will bring together national and global expertise and young leaders to deliberate on adolescent health. Adolescence is a critical period in the life of an individual. It marks several behavioural and physical changes and shape their mental and physical health. A multitude of factors affect them during this time: Selfidentity, peer influences, normative standards of performance in the public space, gender inequality, and the paucity of information and protective environment, apart from a relative lack of understanding of their problems by adults. Ninety per cent of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescent population lives in developing economies. India is home to 253 million adolescents. A large demographic dividend, therefore, lies in front of the world, and especially India, to be leveraged for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
While India has 253 million adolescents, their access to education, health, equal opportunity and equity is under-addressed. This is not the demographic dividend that India aspires for. This needs to be tackled rather urgently. It begins with a legislative and political commitment to address the core issues of child marriage, ensuring access to quality education and health services, reducing drop-outs, addressing gender disparities and so on. Some of these interventions, with the right political push and policy nudge have delivered excellent results in many south Asian and sub-Saharan African countries for this age group. There is an impending need to identify the gaps in the adolescent health space, and implement mechanisms to address them. Certain core solutions are available and well-known, but require strong national commitment for their successful implementation.
India has embarked on the National Adolescent Health programme called Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram, which is being scaled in a phased manner. It is aimed at improving nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health, enhancing mental health, and preventing injuries, violence and substance abuse among adolescents. The initiative involves and encourages adolescent participation, leadership, inclusion and gender equity. Adolescents and youth are going to be the architects of the emerging new India and new world. It is up to us to create the right, enabling opportunities for our adolescents. Let every adolescent count.
There is an impending need to identify the gaps in the adolescent health space and implement mechanisms to address them