The Young Health Programme Promotes Healthy Diets and Clean Living Among Children to Prevent NCDs
Did you know that malnutrition and unhealthy diets are important risk factors for non-communicable diseases?
Cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancers, and diabetes are responsible for 71% of global deaths each year. Around 85% of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) occur in low and middle-income countries, where people also bear the greater burden of undernutrition.
Today’s food systems are broken and do not deliver nutritious, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets. What’s worse, they undermine nutrition in several ways, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized populations.
Studies show that two-thirds of the world’s children are not eating the recommended minimum number of food groups and only one in six children are receiving a minimum acceptable diet. A healthy diet is essential to keep youngsters healthy. It affects them across their life span right from developing their organs to reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Sadha, a young girl from Delhi experienced the perils of an unhealthy diet firsthand. After binging on junk food, and sugary snacks, and indulging in a lazy lifestyle she noticed that it was hard to do day-to-day work. However, all this changed after she attended the Young Health Programme (YHP), a global community investment initiative, organized by AstraZeneca and Plan India.
The programme aims to improve the health outcomes of vulnerable youth by focusing on health awareness and promotion activities. It works to improve access to healthier food and drink choices.
So far, 4,68,838 young people and 2,45,000 people in the community in Delhi are trained to follow a healthy diet and exercise routines and have committed to the non-consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
Spreading awareness about risks of unhealthy diets.
Life before YHP
As a child, Sadha grew up following a mundane lifestyle. She was fond of junk food and did not have big dreams about her future. It is a routine for her to spend time with friends after school. Together, Sadha and her friends would visit new eateries and try different foods.
The group would always take turns between themselves to pay the bills. They would eat chaats, sandwiches, and other delicious but unhealthy snacks. On one fateful day, Sadha did not have enough money to pay the bill and felt humiliated. This pushed her to steal some money from her mother’s purse and throw a party for her friends.
The next day, the group went out to eat chowmein and burgers but Sadha did not enjoy it as much as the other outings. Within two days, her mother enquired about the missing money and Sadha confessed.
Worried about her daughter’s behavior and health, Sadha’s mother convinced her to change her habits. In the following days, Sadha’s health deteriorated and doctors said that her immune system was weak.
Without energy, Sadha could not attend school, could not go out to visit her friends, and was forced to watch all the fun her neighbors had from her room’s window. She felt guilty about her unhealthy eating habits and dreamt of making a change.
In November 2021, after school resumed, Sadha was introduced to YHP sessions on NCDs and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) which were organized at the designated Health Information Centre (HIC).
Reluctant at first, Sadha began to slowly embrace the sessions organized by YHP. The workshop consisted of formal training to understand healthy diets, physical activities, and NCD symptoms. Through the various activities conducted at the HIC, she even learnt about her
SRHR, and preventive NCD methods.
YHP encourages young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to take action against growing NCDs. It addresses the primary risk factors like tobacco use, consumption of alcohol, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, and exposure to air pollution.
Video sessions conducted by YHP
Sharing is caring
Enlightened by what she had learnt, Sadha wanted to share her experiences with immediate peers, including her friends, to protect their health. YHP’s peer educator system allowed her to be a part of the programme as well as spread awareness to thousands of other children.
In the peer educators programme, youngsters get trained on YHP topics like NCD prevention and sexual and reproductive health. Further, they roll out sessions in the community and create awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco consumption, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and more. YHP assesses the gaps in the community on health services and does advocacy with government institutions to provide health services.
After a year of facilitation, Sadha independently takes sessions as a peer educator of YHP. To date, she has motivated over 100 youngsters to adopt healthy eating practices.
Sadha is grateful to Plan India and AstraZeneca for intervening in her lifestyle at the right time. In the future, she dreams of becoming financially independent and supporting her family.