‘Reproductive health education and issues around it should be introduced and addressed in schools and colleges’

I : Inside Out

On the Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day, Dr Sushma Tomar shares her thoughts on the importance of spreading awareness among adolescents to safeguard and improve their reproductive health.

India has taken several strides to safeguard and improve reproductive health among adolescents. Several interventions under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are designed to improve health outcomes among young people. However, no single action or intervention can work for all young people to address all their needs.

Reproductive health has always been a subject that is discussed with a lot of inhibitions. Especially among adolescents, this subject is seldom discussed. We must understand that all adolescents have special sexual and reproductive health needs. They are the backbone of our society and the strength of our family system; so, reproductive health education and issues around it should be introduced and addressed in schools and colleges.

NEED FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH IN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES: Adolescence is a period when kids become bold. They like to explore, challenge the status quo and take more risks. Along with physical growth, adolescents experience emotional, psychological, social, and mental areas. Therefore, susceptibility to behavioural problems at puberty and new concerns about reproductive health are obvious.

During sex education and counselling, educators should disseminate information on how pregnancy is developed, and the role of contraception should be addressed in detail. We all know that teen pregnancies and subsequent abortions are extremely hard. Education about the right use of contraception will help in reducing unwanted pregnancies, and risks of abortions. The right education on reproductive health can help delay early marriages, reduce teenage pregnancy, meet the unmet needs for contraception, reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and STIs and contribute to the reduction of maternal, neonatal and perinatal mortality rates.

Another aspect of this engagement is to save adolescents from physical and emotional violence. India still witnesses intimate partner violence among so many families. Even after much efforts put in by activists, NGOs, government bodies, and media, there is limited and inconclusive evidence of sex and reproductive awareness effectiveness. With exponential exposure to the internet, a significant number of adolescents get sexually active at an early age, and the number seems to increase rapidly. Overall boys are more sexually active than girls. Therefore, all adolescent boys and girls must be educated on reproductive health using the right mediums.

WAYS TO IMPROVE SEX AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH EDUCATION: We need to open society members’ minds, sensitize them to the need for education and empowerment. That is the most effective strategy to improve young adults’ health outcomes and guide the future generation to a healthier nation.

QUALITY SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAMS SHARE MANY CHARACTERISTICS. These are:

  • Are taught by well-qualified and highly trained teachers
  • Use strategies that are relevant and engaging for all students
  • Address the health needs of all students, including the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth
  • Engage parents, families, and community partners in-school programs
  • Foster positive relationships between adolescents and adults

(Dr Sushma Tomar is Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan)

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