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The proposed plan to stabilise the population in Uttar Pradesh by the Yogi Adityanath government ahead of the Assembly elections next year has received mixed reactions. This could become a major poll plank, feel poll watchers. Already the plan has triggered an intensive debate in political circles.
A proactive policy initiative to encourage people to opt for smaller families should have salutary effects, on the quality of life in general and usher in much needed socio-economic reforms. Parents with one or two children will be suitably rewarded in several ways, according to a note in circulation for discussion.
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While enlightened public opinion favours the proposed strategy, rumblings of concern are being articulated by the representatives of the minority community and the opposition parties in the state.
But most experts and academics agree that the population pressure in Uttar Pradesh has to be defused if any meaningful headway is to be made to impart momentum to developmental activities.
India, with a current population size of 1.37 billion, has the second largest population in the world. By 2027, we are expected to overtake China to become the most populous country.
"The constant decline in fertility and mortality in India during the 1980s has brought a positive change in the age structure of population and has resulted in a huge young force of human capital and the trend will remain until early 2030, says Dr Dhirendra Kumar (Population Scientist and Dean, IIHMR University).
Investments in the future of the youth population are critical because caste dynamics and social mores inhibit the opportunities to access education, health, nutrition, employment, and empowerment, especially for women and girls. States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have successfully proved the importance of investing in education and improving access to quality healthcare to achieve population stabilisation.
Many experts opine that coercive population control measures are not the solution and could instead lead to a potential increase in sex-selection practices. This could hurt the Child Sex Ratio, affecting Central Government campaigns such as the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao programme.
China recently rescinded its stringent population policy, having found itself amid a population crisis. On the other hand, neighbouring Sri Lanka successfully stabilized fertility rates by simply increasing the age at marriage, a move that was made more effective by ensuring girls were educated, says political commentator Paras Nath Choudhary.
Strategists say that increased access to education, economic and other development opportunities, lead to fertility decline.
For the country's youth population, family planning and access to contraceptives is a critical element of the primary care component, given its crucial role in delaying first births, ensuring spacing between births, lowering maternal and child mortality, and preventing unsafe abortions, says social activist Mukta Gupta.
Divya Santhanam of the Population Foundation of India says, "Keeping girls in schools and increasing the number of years girls remain in school, can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of the population, particularly among young people. This helps in delaying the age at marriage/cohabitation and increasing the interval between marriage and the first pregnancy.
"We need to expand the range and reach of the current basket of contraceptive choices, and consider adding more Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC), which are critical given our large population of young people."
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Population dynamics experts suggest stabilisation of population is a better idea than population control in the longer run.
Big states like Uttar Pradesh, however, have little choice but to go ahead with appropriate legislative measures to discourage families from opting for more than two children, says Rajiv Gupta of Lok Swar. Any delay in implementing a new population policy will prove detrimental, Gupta adds. (IANS/AD)
Women who suffer from vision, hearing, or dual sensory loss are more than twice as likely to report depression and anxiety than men with similar issues, a new study suggests. The study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, indicated that the prevalence of depression and anxiety was between 2 and 2.56 higher in women compared to men.
“Our study found that while sensory loss, particularly both vision and hearing loss, results in a higher number of the population reporting depression and anxiety, the association is particularly strong in women,” said lead author Shahina Pardhan from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).
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“This highlights the importance of interventions to address vision and hearing loss, especially in women. Some sensory loss is preventable or treatable, and clearly, these issues are taking their toll not just on physical health, but mental health too,” Pardhan added.
For the study, the research team looked at survey data from more than 23,000 adults, where participants had self-reported whether they had suffered depression or anxiety, and also whether they experienced a vision, hearing, or dual (both vision and hearing) sensory impairment.
Women with dual sensory impairment were almost three and a half times more likely to report depression or anxiety than those who did not have any impairment, while men with dual sensory impairments were more than two and a half times more likely to experience depression and almost twice as likely to report anxiety than those with no impairment. (IANS/SP)
Change is the primary theme of adolescence. There are rapid bodily changes, emotions run high and society suddenly views you as an adult! Curiosity, excitement, and urge for independence take control but these changes can also be confusing and uncomfortable if adolescents are not guided and heard.
India has the world’s largest teenage population. There are 253 million adolescents comprising nearly one-fifth, i.e. 22 percent, of India’s total population, belonging to a heterogeneous group of people. They vary in age, marital status, economic status, cultural background, religious beliefs, etc. In India, especially in low-income groups and rural India, adolescence is not a concept.
At one point, you are a child and on attaining puberty (menarche or spermarche), you are declared an adult who is ready to be conformed according to societal rules, responsibilities, and procreation. This attitude is the reason that many adolescents in the country are out of school, are married early, work in vulnerable situations, are sexually active, and are exposed to peer pressure.
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This opens them to a high risk of exposure to unprotected sex, harmful sexual practices, RTI/STIs (Reproductive Tract Infection and Sexually Transmitted Infection), and HIV/AIDS. This situation is further exacerbated due to inadequate knowledge and a lack of access to health facilities combined with cultural taboos, myths, and misconceptions, that restrict adolescents from asking for advice, seeking medical attention, etc.
What is it that comprehensive knowledge around sexual health and well-being entails?
To help adolescents gradually grow into adults who are responsible, aware, and in-charge of their future, there is a need for comprehensive adolescent reproductive and sexual health (ARSH) education. ARSH equips adolescent boys and girls with age-appropriate sexual health knowledge to empower their decisions regarding health, rights, and safety; develop respectful social and sexual relationships, and understand that their choices affect their well-being and that of others.
Lack of information: A grave concern
Adolescent girls are the most to suffer as they have restricted access to SRH (Sexual and Reproductive Health) services which exposes them to the dangers of poor menstrual hygiene practices, non-consensual sex, and unsafe pregnancies and abortions. According to the National Family Health Survey 4 (NFHS) in India, 40 percent of women between the age of 18-24 years reported having had sexual relations by 18 and 47 percent were married before 18 and among them, only 13 percent used contraceptives.
Through my years of experience as an ARSH implementer, I have observed that ARSH education to these young girls empowers them towards better menstrual health and increased agency over their health, education, and bodies. While ARSH education affects girls more, boys too have benefited from ARSH education as they understand their bodily and emotional changes, learn about contraceptives and prevention of RTI/STIs, and understand consent and sexual rights so that they too become champions working towards gender equality.
Safe Space and Friendly Faces
The conspicuous silence around adolescent sexual health has been a household feature of Indian families and communities since forever. Any mention of sex is tabooed. The prevalence of these taboos in government set-ups also prevents adolescents from seeking guidance or treatment because they fear judgment, ridicule, and ostracism. Friendly faces, provision of safe spaces, and non-judgmental support have been observed to help them reach out in a timely manner. Peer educators are at the biggest support-system to promote sound sexual health and reproductive practices among young people. Friends find comfort in sharing their thoughts and issues with friends.
I have seen how trained peer educators are able to provide adolescents in their communities with a safe space, knowledge, and guidance on sexual and reproductive health, promote healthy sexual behaviors, link them to important government services and enhance gender equality using communication material like videos, short films, etc. Equitable access to sexual health-related education can also be achieved through new age communication medium should be used to support adolescents such as e-counseling, communication via social media and other information, communication and technology (ICT) platforms such as radio podcasts, televisions.
Furthermore, prejudice-free sexual and health counseling should be provided to the younger population to ensure that they have access to the right information. Adolescent-friendly health services should be provided in communities to ensure that regular checkups are conducted. Lastly, reproductive, and sexual health education should be made compulsory in schools.
Adolescent health is a multi-stakeholder undertaking by the Government of India, which covers the Ministries of health, women and child development, education and Youth Affairs, and Sports. Government-sanctioned research observes that since the onus of safeguarding adolescents isn’t focused on one ministry, the importance and urgency of the matter lose the essence. This, coupled with a dearth of budget, manpower, and supervision has resulted in a great vision but poor implementation. Also, there is always the threat that programmatic focuses can change along with governments.
To maintain the sustainability of ARSH’s progress in society and for generations to come, it is imperative that the communities step in. While youth are educated on ARSH, for equality, we need to intervene on all fronts. More and more boys, girls, and community members need to come together to share information about ARSH and menstruation among the community. The communities need to be trained as change agents so that adolescents can lead a dignified and healthy life where they can make informed decisions. (IANS/SP)
Researchers have revealed that higher than normal blood pressure (BP) is linked to more extensive brain damage in the elderly, suggesting that it is important to control blood pressure long-term.
The study, published in the journal European Heart Journal, found that there was a strong association between diastolic blood pressure (the blood pressure between heartbeats) before the age of 50 and brain damage in later life, even if the diastolic blood pressure was within what is normally considered to be a healthy range.
The findings come from a study of 37,041 participants enrolled in the UK Biobank, a large group of people recruited from the general population aged between 40 and 69 years, and for whom medical information, including MRI brain scans was available.
The research, carried out by the University of Oxford in the UK, looked for damage in the brain called “white matter hyperintensities” (WMH).
These show up on MRI brain scans as brighter regions and they indicate damage to the small blood vessels in the brain that increases with age and blood pressure. WMH are associated with an increased risk of stroke, dementia, physical disabilities, depression, and a decline in thinking abilities.
“Not all people develop these changes as they age, but they are present in more than 50 percent of patients over the age of 65 and most people over the age of 80 even without high blood pressure, but it is more likely to develop with higher blood pressure and more likely to become severe,” the study authors wrote.
The researchers adjusted the information to take account of factors such as age, sex, risk factors such as smoking and diabetes, and diastolic as well as systolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the maximum blood pressure reached each time the heart beats and is the top number in blood pressure measurements.
“To compare the volume of white matter hyperintensities between people and to adjust the analysis for the fact that people’s brains vary slightly in size, the team divided the volume of WMH by the total volume of white matter in the brain.
In that way, they could analyze the WMH load, which is the proportion of the WMH volume to the total volume of white matter.
The researchers found that a higher load of WMH was strongly associated with current systolic blood pressure, but the strongest association was for past diastolic blood pressure, particularly when under the age of 50. (IANS)