Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has said ‘India happens to be a very rich country inhabited by very poor people’. It is undeniable that we have come a long way since Independence, especially in terms of GDP growth and economic progress. But, we are still lagging behind in terms of nutrition and health. According to National Family Health Survey-4, nearly 40% of Indian children are stunted. Nearly half of the children are anaemic. The government of both India and Karnataka are making efforts to remedy this grave situation with programmes like the Mid Day Meal scheme, annual deworming programme, Anaemia Mukt Bharat and so on.

It also becomes the responsibility of civil society organisations to supplement the efforts of the government. This is exactly what we, at Trinity Care Foundation, are attempting to do, through our Government Preventive School Health Programme . Along with a team of doctors and paramedical workers, we deliver preventive health care to school children of semi urban and rural Karnataka, through health checkups aimed at detecting anaemia and malnutrition. We also advise medications for common ailments like worm infestations, respiratory illnesses, diarrhoea, skin infections etc., which in turn have a bearing on the nutritional status of the child. We also provide the children with an ophthalmologic examination as well as spectacles for those who have high or low power.

Health Education is also an important part of our programme to ensure that the message reaches home. This becomes especially important due to lack of health awareness among parents in these areas, superstitious beliefs compounding the problem. A paucity of facilities and awareness leads to disregard of hygiene. Several children are more disadvantaged due to their social circumstances. During on the camps, I encountered a boy of 8th standard, living in the school hostel. He had lost his father and his mother lived several kilometers away, leaving him without access to treatment for worm infestation and malnourishment. Thankfully, the school teachers were cooperative in caring for the child.

The importance of preventive health care cannot be overemphasized. Early correction of nutritional imbalances and common ailments positively affects the economic productivity and quality of life of the child as she reaches adulthood. Health education for school children can build a healthy society with a scientific temperament. Children getting exposed to the work that doctors and paramedics may encourage them to take up a career in the healthcare sector. Through our efforts, we hope to contribute to building a healthy and aware citizenry.

~ Dr. Mahima, aspiring public health professional.

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