According to Demographics survey, India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. Thus, to bring the significant long term social and economic benefits to the community and country, it is important to improve and invest in youth health.
There is still substantial premature death, illness, and injury among adolescents or youth. Illnesses can hinder their ability to grow and develop to their full potential. There are many obstacles to youth health which jeopardize not only their current health, but also their health as adults, and even the health of their future children.
- Early pregnancy and childbirth: According to a report, for every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, there were 76 adolescent births in India in 2010 compared to 49 worldwide and 53 in less developed regions. Underage marriage and teen pregnancies are a major health and economic concerns.
- Sexual exploitation and violence: It is a serious and pervasive social malady in India as it is in many areas of the world today. Sexual Violence can contribute to abnormal and arrested development, and a wide array of psychological and emotional disorders, that some children and adolescents may experience for a lifetime.
- HIV: Over 35% of all reported AIDS cases in the country occur among those in the age group of 15-24 years indicating that young people are not only at high risk of contracting HIV infection but already constitute a significant percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS.
- Mental Health: A study says, an estimated 11-31 million youth suffer from reported mental health problems in India. Results suggest that the household and individual factors like place of residence, wealth quintile, age, education, and occupation are the most important determinants of mental health problems among Indian youth.
- Alcoholism, Drugs, Tobacco consumption: The majority (of addicts) became hooked on drugs after friends introduced drugs to them. With age, the parents’ influence often diminishes, and as part of life’s natural progression, youngsters are influenced more and more by their peers. Many detailed studies have shown the worrisome aspects of peer pressure.
- Physical inactivity and Obesity may lead to lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension, etc. Chronic malnutrition is accompanied by a host of problems—weak immune systems, the risk of sickness and disease, arrested cognitive and physical development.
- Poor sanitation and hygiene: A lack of toilets further exacerbates the problem as feces on the ground contribute to contaminated drinking water and water resources in general. Menstrual problems in young girls may also lead to poor health.
- Because of many ill-health issues mentioned above, the youth may be prone to various infections. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among adolescents.
Youth health can be acknowledged by reviving young people’s empowerment and participation in influencing their environments and shaping public policies. It may include;
- Adopting national Health policies and strategies to improve outcomes of youth health.
- Protecting the young people from harm (e.g. child-bearing, sexual exploitation and violence, use of illicit substances and tobacco, harmful use of alcohol, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet and obesity, road traffic and other injuries, and mental health problems)
- Providing access to contraception; reproductive health-care services; prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections and associated support; mental health services; and trauma care
- Revising policies in health to eliminate all forms of discrimination experienced by youth.
- Providing up-to-date age- and sex-specific data, given the existing gap in the data regarding young people’s health.
- Developing health workforce development and youth-friendly health-care services.
- Collaborating youth in aspects related to education, social inclusion, social and physical environments, employment, and the media and with civil society organizations and the private sector
Healthy India mission needs the partnering of youth in addressing, planning, and monitoring health issues. And it can be achieved only when we can safeguard our educated, empowered, and healthy future wealth.
On this National Youth Day, let’s pledge to align the interests of the most important section of the population – the future agents of change – with the Government’s vision of ‘New India’.