The Union Health Ministry has advised states and Union Territories to hold screening sessions in school and college campuses for mental health and non-communicable diseases like cancer, diabetes and blood pressure at regular intervals. The aim is to ensure early diagnosis of these chronic diseases for their treatment on time.
In a letter to principal secretariesin states and UTs, a senior health ministry official sought implementation of measures like ensuring tobacco-free campus, restricting the use of unhealthy diet including sugar-sweetened beverages and junk food in canteens and establishing counselling centres on mental health condition and tobacco cessation. The official also advised promoting physical activity and yoga on the campusand creating an enabling environment to mitigate air pollution.
"Investment in risk behaviour prevention and health promotion among youth are the most cost-effective ways to improve health outcomes. Education institutions can play a critical role in these areas," the letter stated. The letter mentions that the majority of risk behaviour that impacts health takes shape during young age. The prevalence of common mental morbidity including depression in the age group of 18-29 years is around 9 per cent as per National Mental Health survey.
It is also estimated that nearly 12 per cent of people in the age group 15-24 years use tobacco productsand around 5 per cent of individuals in the age group of 15-29 years are either obese or over-weight. "You will appreciate relatively small interventions focused on youth will pay high dividends in creating a healthy and empowered society," the letter stated.