The New National Health Policy will address the rising incidence of reproductive illnesses in young urban women. The government is alarmed by the reports of polycystic ovarian disease, endometriosis and fibroids — conditions associated with infertility, which is increasingly affecting women even in their teens.
“As a medical man, I am depressed by this new trend as reported to me by many reputed obstetricians and gynaecologists. I feel we should react with speed and caution,” Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has said.
The minister, who was inaugurating the golden jubilee celebrations of Laxmibai College, Delhi, announced that he would soon form a committee to suggest measures for improving the health profile of Indian women. Its outcome would be part of the new national health policy, he stated.
“A woman’s body is a temple, extremely important from the perspective of a nation’s future. Building a new generation of healthy women has a salutary effect on family, society and nation because each woman multitasks as professional in her chosen field, mother and teacher of her children, and, above all, custodian of collective values,” the minister said.
Reducing maternal mortality, improving nutritional levels of women from less-privileged backgrounds and reinforcing mother-and-child development programmes are areas of prime focus, the Health Minister said. In addition, the new national health policy would address reproductive health, anaemia and numerous other non-communicable diseases which have their origin in lifestyle problems, he added.
Dr Harsh Vardhan observed that substance abuse, alcoholism and smoking are on the rise among young women. Recently, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, has opened an exclusive women’s ward for victims of drug abuse and alcoholism. He said it was an ominous signal for the nation as a whole and urged social groups to aid the government in combating this challenge.
“We are concerned by the rising challenge of modern lifestyles marked by work stress on the one hand and bad eating, drinking and sleeping habits on the other. The government needs the help of social, religious, student and philanthropic groups to counter this scourge,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.
On the present mania to “keep fit”, Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out that Yoga, which is India’s gift to the world, is the best way to keep in shape. It also gives mental peace and the power to focus, he stated.
The Minister cautioned against the prevailing myths on slimming through excessive gyming and putting oneself through semi-starvation routines.
“This is most dangerous at a stage of life when the body is undergoing many hormonal changes and is constantly burning energy. I would therefore advise that a balanced meal full of adequate calories is taken at fixed times every day to build up resistance to diseases. It is also essential to discard junk food,” the Minister said.
He advised the Principal, Dr Veena Gautam, to ensure that every girl in the college takes up a couple of sports for keeping fit as well as enhancing her sports profile. “Sports ensures slimness as well as sound mental and physical health,” he said.
Dr Harsh Vardhan recalled the image of Rani Laxmibai as the embodiment of feminism. He said, “The Rani of Jhansi balanced the role of mother and leader perfectly. Her British enemy, General Hugh Rose, had doffed his cap in admiration for her valour. In a male-dominated age she was a trail blazer. I would urge today’s young women to look up to her as a role model.”
Within 90 days of the formation of the new government, the Health Ministry has taken steps to protect the victims of sexual violence by making hospital staff sensitive to their needs for medical and legal aid.