“Investing in adolescent health is crucial to reduce teenage pregnancies in Rajasthan”

Study finds benefit-cost calculation indicates very high potential for intervention gains

Amid the high prevalence of child marriage, reducing teenage pregnancies continues to be the biggest challenge in addressing adolescent reproductive health issues in Rajasthan. Since more than a third of girls marry before age 18 and 6.3% of girls in the 15-19 age group are already mothers or pregnant, investment in sexual and reproductive health is needed. crucial for the state.

With these results, a new study titled ‘Returns on Investment in Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Rajasthan’ calculated the benefit-cost ratio to conclude that for every ₹ 100 spent on addressing unmet adolescent needs, it there will be a return on investment. about 300 in terms of health costs saved. This indicates a very high potential for health and economic gains from the interventions.

Arvind Mayaram, Economic Advisor to the Chief Minister, recently released the study conducted by the Population Foundation of India (PFI), with the suggestion to develop new standards and guidelines to improve the quality of reproductive health services. Dr Mayaram said that since adolescents make up 23% of the state’s population, their demographic dividend could be harnessed through effective strategies.

Also read: Increased Teenage Pregnancies, Higher Anemia Rate in Women: NFHS-5 Phase Data

Potential health gains from interventions could prevent 1.45 lakh of unintended pregnancies, 1.46 lakh of unwanted births, over 14,000 unsafe abortions and the deaths of more than 7,000 infants and 300 pregnant women between 2021 and 2025, according to the study. It could also save the lives of 7,321 infants and 343 maternal lives by 2025, resulting in a significant gain in disability-adjusted life years, which is a measure of the overall burden of disease.

The results also revealed that a per capita investment of 1 in a weekly iron and folic acid supplement (WIFS) could save almost ₹ 2 to ₹ 20 in terms of lost productivity avoided among teens. In order to reap this benefit, the state will need to make an annual investment of ₹ 6.6 crore to ₹ 8 crore in order to realize ₹ 13.2 core in returns.

To achieve coverage of at least 50% of in-school and out-of-school adolescents, the state will need to increase the reach of WIFS from the current level of 9.2% to 25%. Likewise, the benefits of providing sanitary napkins to adolescent girls for a year will be around 4: 1, indicating that every rupee invested in this intervention will produce a return of ₹ 4 by avoiding the loss of school performance, according to the ‘study.

The study highlighted challenges in the area of ​​sexual and reproductive health due to structural poverty, social discrimination, regressive social norms, inadequate education, and early marriage and pregnancy. When calculating the benefit-cost ratio, he recommended taking a multidimensional and innovative approach to reaching adolescents.

Noting the unmet need for contraception among married adolescent girls in the state, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and induced abortions, the study recommended an increase in the modern contraceptive prevalence rate for spacing methods by 10.1. % to 32% in 2021-25. period. In absolute terms, the state will need to provide contraceptives at an additional 2.53 lakhs and comprehensive abortion care services to an additional 75,000 users.

PFI executive director Poonam Muttreja said the state government should invest carefully to ensure that the working-age population is healthy and literate, and has access to resources. While adolescent-specific health interventions should be responsive to their needs, nutritional supplementation programs should also be scaled up and scaled up, she said.

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