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Intervention Needed to Break 'Silence' on Reproductive Health

There is "enormous silence" in India around adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues, and this can be overcome through involvement of parents, in-laws, spouses// and elders, says a new report by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and partners.

More than half the population in India is younger than 25, and many adolescents, particularly unmarried girls, suffer serious reproductive health problems but face constraints in receiving care and treatment.

Between 60 and 70 percent of adolescent girls are anemic. Early marriage, which increases the girls' risk of health complications due to childbearing and other problems, is also pervasive in India.

The report, 'Improving Reproductive Health of Married and Unmarried Youth in India: Evidence of Effectiveness and Costs from Community-based Interventions,' released Monday, reveals that change can happen fairly quickly, in this case in three years or less.

"There is enormous silence in India around reproductive health issues, particularly for young people," said Rohini Pande, ICRW project director for the research programme.

"To break the silence around adolescent sexual and reproductive health, programmes must work with communities, including parents, in-laws, spouses, elders and other people who make decisions about young people's lives," said Pande.

The report is based on a 10-year research programme, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, on most suitable interventions.

The Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, the Foundation for Research in Health Systems (FRHS), the KEM Hospital Research Centre, the Institute for Health Management (IHMP), Pachod, and Swaasthya assisted ICRW in the study.

Studies have revealed that the median age at marriage for girls in India is 16, though it can be much younger in specific communities.

A 1998-99 study by IHMP found that the median age of marria
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