A Life Worth Living: Teenagers, The Family, and Health
Delhi, India - 28 February 1997
The Family which is the smallest social unit is the measure of a healthy society. Health is an important common factor in all types of families - urban or rural, rich or poor. Family commitment is a dynamic skill which is devoted to the well being of each member of the family to reach his or her potential. A healthy family is a healthy nation, thus the emphasis on family and health both in its physical and mental aspects were the pivotal issues of the workshop on Family and Health organised by All India Women's Conference as a member association of PPSEAWA on 28th February, 1997 funded by NESTLE.
The topics which were discussed in the workshop were:
1. Physical Health; 2. Mental Health.
This workshop was a follow up of the PPSEAWA Workshop on Health and Family held at Western Samoa. In her welcome address the President of AIWC Mrs. Kunti Paul, emphasised the need for health care for a strong nation. Keeping in mind the present state or women's health status in India, new strategies and policies need to be adopted to empower women and advance equality by providing health care right from infancy to adulthood. She reiterated that there should be an integrated approach toward access to reproductive health care, family planning, role of family and family education.
Dr. Manorama Bawa spelled out the topics under discussion in the workshop i.e. the various aspects of physical and mental health which are closely integrated with the well being of the family and through this unit to the community. There is a growing concern among the world community on gender inequality. Gender is only one dimension of the many prevailing social inequalities which threaten people's health and well-being. Gender inequality is visible in the low levels of welfare, education, health and economic status. Although a lot of interest has been generated on gender issues, women's health has been given priority as this in turn affects the health of the family. Empowered women would have the capacity for decision making and will be able to exercise their reproductive rights. They will have the mental courage to overcome gender inequalities and become active participants in health programme instead of passive recipients. Physical health is closely connected to physical environment, nutrition, health care services and information.
Dr. Bawa pointed toward the growing concern of HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that by the year 2000, HIV/AIDS will infect nearly 40 million persons. Women are more vulnerable to this endemic because of sociological and biological reasons. It affects women not only as individuals but as health care providers, educators, wives, and mothers. There is need to spread information and awareness on modes of transmission of HIV/AIDS, prevention and protection, not only among women but amongst the youth, especially as there is not much emphasis on sex education at the high school level.
Dr. Bawa felt that mental health is as important a factor for the well being of the family as physical health. To cope with the stresses and strains within the family and in the community, negotiation skills need to be developed to emerge as more empowered, more maturer and more effective persons in the family.
Shirley Munyan, PPSEAWA representative to UNESCO, inaugurated the workshop and in her inaugural address, she urged the participants to spread health awareness among the youth. She emphasised the need for organising many more such workshops to educate families and the adolescents in the family. The need for health care and good nutrition in healthy young generations is the foundation of a healthy and progressive nation, was also emphasised.
Dr. S. P. Aggarwal, Director General, Directorate of Health Service, Chief Guest of the workshop, in his address said that the subject of "Family & Health" is very topical as family and health are closely inter-linked and they reflect the well being and quality of life. He further stressed the pivotal role of women in safe guarding the health of the family and ultimately of the community at large. He stated that the current rate of growth of population will severely retard our endeavour to provide socio-economic justice and conditions of good life and health to millions of our people. He, therefore, stressed on the urgent need to restrict the rate of growth of population. He also highlighted the crucial social determinants such as female literacy, age at marriage, employment opportunities and their status in society in improving health and nutrition and providing a comprehensive package and maternal health care service.
Dr. Sarla Gopalan, Secretary, Ministry of Human Resources Development, Dept. of Women & Child Development, Govt. of India, in her key-note address congratulated AIWC for holding a workshop on such an important topic. She stressed that an enabling environment should be created, also measures should be taken to make information easily accessible to all especially the youth. She emphasised that there is a need to attend and focus on public health and hygiene. The basic need of safe drinking water should be taken care of to ensure better health. She urged participants to remove wrong practices vis-à-vis sanitation, use and storage of water and to stop wastage of our natural resources as a step towards ensuring better health for the masses.
Mr. P. Chaturvedi, Secretary Institute of Advancement of Science & Technology speaking on "Family as the Development Unit," emphasised the importance of the most enduring social institute that mediates between the individual and society at large and how it has adopted to both rapid and far reaching global changes. During his session, he highlighted how the concept of family as a development unit has evolved internationally and was the major focus of Copenhagen declaration on Social Development at the Copenhagen Social Summit.
During the next Session on "Family & Health" Dr. Suniti Acharya, Regional advisor in MCH - WHO spelt out the broad principles of reproductive health, focusing on the current emerging trends. She stressed that family and health are inter-related i.e. reproductive health, general health and human development are not an isolated concept but closely interlinked with each other. She emphasised on reproductive health care and stated the constellation of methods, technology and services that contribute to reproductive health. She enlightened participants with the data that over 50,000 female die year from pregnancy related complications. She recommended that raising age of marriage amongst women would be a milestone in the area of safe motherhood. She also talked about global reproductive health strategy in which steps are to be taken in promotion of reproductive health, prevention of specific reproductive health problems, provision of care, treatment and rehabilitation of specific target groups.
"Prevention of HIV/AIDS among the youth taken by Dr. Mahesh Mahalingam of the Overseas Development Agency. He stated that parents play a minimum role in the area of sex education of their children which is a major area of concern. He urged participants to take steps like abstinence, more interaction between family and youth, communication between sexes as a step toward healthy and safe sex which will also help in prevention of HIV and AIDS.
Dr. Aparna Siddhu from Dept. of Nutrition, Lady Irwin College, focused on the nutritional aspect of healthy life. Good physical health is dependent on active life style, exercise, sports, and active leisure activity. Avoidance of smoking, alcohol, drugs, and other physical abuses also help in maintaining good health. Water the nectre of life helps to cleanse the system, helping an individual to keep healthy.
The session on mental health was chaired by Dr. Vimla Lai, Senior Consultant. She briefly talked about various Psychiatic imbalances due to an increase in stress, in our daily lives and there is need to maintain an equitable mental and emotional balance. There is also a need to interact with fellow beings to share and communicate each other's experiences which will help us relieve and cope better with our stress situations.
In continuation to this line of thought, Dr. Avdesh Sharma, Clinical Psychologist discussed mental illness and how it is predominately prevalent in Indian women due to psycho social practices and adjustment disorder. Therefore there is a need for strong family support. At the time of crisis, mental illness often gets manifested and in case of such incidents, reporting should be encouraged and there should be some encouragement for consultation with clinical psychologists for treatment.
Dr. Nilini Dekka from Dept. of Psychology, I.P. College speaking on "Negotiating Skills in the family environment," drew attention of the participants to family disturbances and domestic violence. She advocated the need for pre-marital counseling and infrastructural service facilities for the family. There should be an effort to communicate within the family that in itself will help to ensure good mental health. She laid emphasis on the need for effective communication within the family to mediate and negotiate relationships. She defined the family in terms of the communication channels and how a breakdown in communication channel may affect the mental health of its family members. Dr. Sadhana Vohra summed up the session on mental health by briefly recapitulating and highlighting the salient point of each of the speakers. She emphasised the role of a counselor in helping people cope with their problems. She said that the counselor should provide support and security to the client to build up his or her own strength and resources to effectively deal with their lives.
Dr. Aparna Basu, Vice-President, AIWC finally concluded the workshop with a brief summation of the day's deliberation. She on behalf of All Women's Conference, thanked the Chairperson, the speakers for sharing their expert knowledge and their interaction with the participants. Finally, she expressed her thanks to the participants for their active participation in the workshop.
Conducted by the All India Women's Conference, an organizational member of PPSEAWA.
Reported by Dr. Manorama Bawa
Last Modified: June 05, 2010