With 329 adolescent-friendly clinics in Maharashtra, youth open up to ‘closed-door’ topics
Among 8,500 peer educators are school kids trained to speak on unwanted pregnancies, sexual issues.
The state has set up 329 Adolescent-Friendly Health Clinics (AFHCs) also known as ‘Maitri’ clinics aimed at counselling and curative services.
With 181 clinics set up in nine high-risk districts, a total of 8,500 youngsters from various villages have been appointed as peer educators to set up teen clubs and talk about unwanted pregnancies and sexual concerns, among other issues.
Dr Ashish Bharati, Assistant Director, State Family Welfare Bureau, told The Indian Express that counselling is held on nutrition, menstrual disorders, personal hygiene, menstrual hygiene, use of sanitary napkins, use of contraceptives, sexual concerns, depression, sexual abuse, gender violence, substance misuse and promoting healthy behaviour to prevent non-communicable diseases is provided at these clinics.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had launched a programme for adolescents, in the age group of 10-19 years, which would target their nutrition, reproductive health and substance abuse, among other issues. The Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram was launched in 2014 and as part of the objective to improve sexual and reproductive health, mental health, prevent injuries and substance misuse, the focus now has been renewed to adolescent-friendly health issues.
The clinics, initially introduced under the Reproductive Child Health programme, were 73 in 2007-08, and has now shot up to 329 in the state.
The focus is community-based interventions through peer educators, said Dr Bharati. Adolescent participation and leadership is crucial to the programme as once they are trained in various aspects of reproductive health, they can go to their villages and set up their own teen clubs or adolescent groups to speak about these issues. At least four peer educators are appointed for a population of 1,000.
“We select one school-going student and another who has completed schooling as peer educators. Non-monetary incentives are provided and they are given a list of frequently-asked questions. In case, they are not able to answer queries from others in the group about health-related information, then the peer educators seek guidance from the Accredited Social Health Activists and Auxiliary nursing midwife (ANM) at the primary health centres and sub district hospitals.
“We have proposed another 113 clinics in 2016-17,” Bharati said.