Returns on investment in Adolescents? Sexual health

Returns on investment in Adolescents’ Sexual health

News: Recently, findings of a study titled “Returns on Investment in Adolescents’ Sexual and Reproductive Health in Rajasthan” were released.Adolescents are a heterogeneous group aged between 10 and 19 years, who are in different stages of development, live in varying circumstances and have distinct needs.

• It examines the economic and health benefits that could accrue from increased investment in adolescents’ sexual and reproductive healthspecific interventions in Rajasthan.
• The study has calculated the benefit-cost ratio to conclude that for every Rs. 100 spent on meeting the unmet needs of adolescents, there will be a return of approximately Rs. 300 in terms of healthcare costs saved.
• It also explores the potential for scaling up the services such as Access to contraceptives; Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC); Weekly Iron and Folic acid Supplementation (WIFS); and, Menstrual Hygiene Schemes (MHS) across the state.
• With 253 million adolescents (which implies that every fifth person in India is an adolescent), India has an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate economic development and reduce poverty.
• A variety of factors that include structural poverty, social discrimination, regressive social norms, inadequate education, and early marriage and childbearing, especially in the marginalized and underserved sections of the population.
• The total adolescent population of Rajasthan is 15 million or 23% of the total population in the state. Of these, 53% are males and 47% are females.
• It continues to be of concern in Rajasthan as more than one-third of the girls (35.4%) get married before 18 years of age and 6.3% in the age group of 15-19 years are already mothers.This is significantly higher than the national average of 27%.
• Adolescent mothers aged 10-19 years face higher risks of birth-related complications like eclampsia, puerperal endometritis (uterine infection) and other systemic infections than women of higher age groups.
• Babies born to adolescent mothers also face a higher risk of low birth weight, prematurity, birth injuries, stillbirth and infant mortality.
• Health problems, lack of education and the responsibilities of parenthood combine to further restrict the adolescent’s future economic opportunities and career choices.

Way forward:
• Development of new standards and guidelines to improve the quality of reproductive health services.
• The State government should prudently invest in ensuring that the working age population is healthy and literate, and has access to resources.
• While the adolescent-specific health interventions needed to be sensitive to their requirements, nutrition supplementation programmes should also be strengthened and scaled up.
• Increase in the modern contraceptive prevalence rate for spacing methods from the existing 10.1% to 32% in the 2021-25 period.Adoption of a multi-faceted and innovative approach to reach out to adolescents. 

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