Increasing teenage pregnancy and other health issues in that age group are of great concern for the government, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday and stressed on the need for making adolescents healthy to harness the country's demographic dividend.
At the inauguration of a workshop 'Investing in Adolescent Health: Harnessing the Demographic Dividend' he said adolescence is a critical phase in developing potential in a person and making investments in this age group will be the best way to leverage India's advantage of having a young population.
"The ongoing levels of teenage pregnancies and child marriages in certain pockets across the country is a cause for great concern, and taking sexual and reproductive health services out of the clinics to India's adolescent population will be the way forward," the Union minister said.
Vardhan addressed the workshop, organised by the Observer Research Foundation and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, via video conferencing as he had to suddenly participate in the 'Clean Ganga programme in Kanpur.
With 253 million adolescents, India comprises a high proportion of individuals in a transient phase of life that requires nutrition, education, counselling and guidance to ensure their proper development. This group is also susceptible to various avoidable health problems such as early and unintended pregnancy, unsafe sex leading to STI/HIV/AIDS, nutritional disorders like malnutrition, anemia, obesity mental health concerns and others.
The other speakers at the inaugural session included UNICEF India Representative Yasmin Ali Haque, WHO Representative to India Henk Bekedam and Hisham Mundol, Executive Director, India and Child Protection, Children's Investment Fund Foundation.At the workshop it was emphasised that in addition to its inherent value, promoting and protecting adolescent health will lead to public health, economic and demographic benefits.
It brought together more than 120 delegates, including 30 speakers from multiple stakeholders like state governments, not-for-profit organisations, think tanks, UN agencies, and international and multilateral agencies.