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India needs to invest in adolescent health to benefit from demographic dividend, say experts

India needs to invest in adolescent health to benefit from demographic dividend, say experts

New Delhi, Oct 27 (UNI) With more than 50 per cent adolescents and women in this country who are anaemic, India needs to invest in adolescent health if it wants to benefit from the demographic dividend, speakers said. Stating this at the IAAH 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health which got underway on Thursday, Dr Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, said anaemia was a bigger challenge in India than even non-communicable diseases which needed to be dealt with urgency. Anaemia was one of the biggest problems among country’s adolescents, with more than 50 per cent suffering from the disease caused by the shortage of mineral iron in the body, experts here said. 'Adolescence is a critical life stage when investments made in nutrition, quality education and physical and mental health can offer profound dividends in adult life,' International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH) president Susan Sawyer speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the three-day World Congress said. Adolescence, which begins with puberty and continues till the mid-twenties when brain maturation finishes, is a period that encapsulates major changes related to critical life events, such as moving from education to employment, and the formation of new relationships, families and parenting. People suffering from anaemia lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. And fewer healthy red blood cells could mean less oxygen travelling to the brain and may result in cognitive decline. It can be caused by several conditions, including kidney disease and nutritional deficiencies. Pointing out that if India was to benefit from the demographic dividend, it was important to invest in adolescent health, Dr Paul spelt out the challenges, saying there was a dearth of quality data on adolescents and implementing the ambitious adolescent health programme on the ground was equally tough. He recommended setting of specific milestones for the Sustainable Development Goals. The world is home to 1.2 billion adolescents, and India has the largest population of adolescents in the world – 253 million with every fifth adolescent in the world being an Indian and every second adolescent being an Asian. More UNI SD SW 1526

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