Govt to focus on making India anemia-free: Union Health Secretary

Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was addressing the inaugural ceremony of the IAAH 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health, ‘Investing in Adolescent Health – the Future is Now’, being held in New Delhi

L to R- Poonam Muttreja - PFI, Dr. Sunil Mehra- Mamta HIMC,Bjorn Andersson - UNFPA, Preeti SUdan - Secretary, MoHFW, Vinod Paul - Niti Aayog, Anthony Costello - WHO, Paul Rutter- UNICEF, Susan Sa.

New Delhi: Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has said that the government was in the process of putting in place dedicated, preventive and promotive strategies in schools to make India anaemia-free.

Ms Sudan made these remarks while inaugurating the IAAH 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health on 26 October 2017.She stated: “We need to consolidate clinical and public health initiatives for the well-being of adolescents. Various programmes being run by different Ministries for adolescents need to be integrated for better outcomes.”

The World Congress is the biggest global event in adolescent health held once every 4 years by the International Association for Adolescent Health. It is being held in India for the first time.

Over 50 percent adolescents and women in India are estimated to be anaemic.

Ms Sudan said India has some pathbreaking legislations on HIV and Mental Health and had a comprehensive National Health Programme for Adolescents – Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) launched in 2014 across 230 districts.

The world is home to 1.2 billion adolescents, and India has the largest population of adolescents in the world – 253 million with every fifth adolescent in the world being an Indian and every second adolescent being an Asian.

Dr Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, said anemia was a bigger challenge though we often speak of non-communicable diseases which need to be dealt with urgency.

Pointing out that youth was India’s future, Dr Paul said if India had to benefit from the demographic dividend, it was important to invest in adolescent health. Talking about the challenges, he said there was a dearth of quality data on adolescents and implementing the ambitious adolescent health programme on the ground was equally tough.

Dr Paul recommended setting of specific milestones for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Professor Susan Sawyer, President, International Association for Adolescent Health, said it was for the first time that there was a strategy in place for women, children and adolescents. Adolescence is a critical time in the growth of an individual, and now was the time to invest in them.

Prof Sawyer further said that India – with over 253 million adolescents – was  significantly investing in adolescents, children, and women, adding that this was the largest meeting of the IAAH with representation from all regions of the world.

Dr Sunil Mehra, Executive Director, MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child said that there was a strong contingent of young people at the World Congress who can guide us to draft our future policies. He said the participants would learn and share problems, challenges, actions and resources during the deliberations.

The World Congress is being organized under the supportive leadership of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child (MAMTA) is the lead organisation that is hosting the World Congress with a consortium of partners including Pathfinder International, Population Foundation of India (PFI), Population Services International (PSI), and The YP Foundation. The World Congress also has scientific support from Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI).