Aarti Dhar

Self-learning module will improve knowledge, skill & competency of health workers

Fast-changing economic and social realities have exposed this critical age-group to varied influencesAdolescents constitute about 22 per cent of the population and there are about 280 million people in the age group of 10-19 years

NEW DELHI: Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has sent out a module on adolescent health to the basic health functionaries across the country to promote understanding of adolescence among teenagers, particularly in the rural and urban poor settings. Adolescents constitute about 22 per cent of the country's population and there are about 280 million people in the age group of 10-19 years.

The module aims at improving knowledge, skill and competency level of various health workers providing primary health services to adolescent boys and girls at the community level by sensitising the health functionaries to specific needs of teenagers, enhancing their knowledge to enable them to assess adolescent health needs including sexuality concerns and provide skills to address special health needs of the people in this age-group through counselling essential health care services.

This self-learning module "Learning to Work with Adolescents" will be used by the health functionaries particularly at the community health care level where adolescents are normally expected to seek services. Published in 13 regional languages and prepared with the help of Delhi-based Mamta Institute for Mother and Child, the module is meant for block extension educators, lady health visitor, auxiliary nurse midwife, multipurpose worker (both male and female), public health nurses, anganwadi workers and supervisors and non-governmental organisations working with adolescents.

The various methodologies used in the module include group discussions, role-plays, dramatisation and case studies, with the purpose of making the learning experience more interactive, participatory and interesting. Visuals and pictorials have been used to explain the text in an easy manner and pictures used to present case studies in the form of comic strips that is expected to help initiate discussions on the given subject. Visuals in the form of illustrations (pictures of body parts and their functions) should bring about more clarity on relevant topics.

Varied influences

It is believed that India's fast changing economic and social realities have exposed this critical age-group to varied influences within a traditional environment. This has brought about dramatic changes in their lives and exposed them to health risks such as drugs, smoking and unprotected sexual activities. The problem gets compounded for adolescents living in remote rural and tribal areas and not pursuing school education as they continue to remain at the periphery of the health and development scenario. They have specific needs pertaining to health issues such as poor nutritional status and anaemia, reproductive health concerns regarding contraception, HIV and adolescent pregnancies.

Task force

It was with the view to meet these challenges that the Ministry realised the need to bring about an attitudinal change and update knowledge and skills of health workers for which a special task force was constituted and asked to explore the various alternatives to provide an identity and voice to this important segment of population. The task force found adolescent health and adolescent reproductive and sexual health were areas of interest but very little knowledge on these subjects existed on the ground.