The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), today launched the Pankh Initiative to generate greater awareness about reproductive health issues among youth.
Pankh, which means “wings” in Hindi, aims to create awareness about safe sexual behaviour and proper contraceptive use without stigma or judgment. The Initiative will introduce the ‘Talk Bejhijhak’ (talk without hesitation) campaign to facilitate non-judgemental, technically accurate conversations between FOGSI member physicians across India and youth. FOGSI members will provide a secure environment where youth and adolescents can ask questions about sexual and reproductive health and eliminate jhijhak, the hesitancy they often experience when talking to doctors about contraception and sexual health. The campaign will include an anonymous helpline – 1800 258 0001– where trained counsellors can answer questions and help facilitate face-to-face consultations in clinics when needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on all aspects of health, including reproductive health. The lack of access to contraceptive options during the lockdown is estimated to have caused 2.7 million unwanted pregnancies and COVID-19 induced disruptions continue to erode the messaging around contraceptives and reproductive health. India is home to the world’s largest population of adolescents and youth aged 10–24 years. Young people struggle from limited availability of accurate reproductive health information and services targeted to them and their needs.
Speaking at the launch event, Dr. Amit Shah, Deputy Director, USAID/India Health Office, said: “USAID/India has supported numerous initiatives to advance the interests of adolescents and young people and respond to the unmet need for reproductive health and family planning in young people. USAID is proud to join FOGSI in this partnership focused on improving the quality of reproductive health counselling for youth.”
During the launch, FOGSI released guidelines for Adolescent and Youth Friendly Health Services (AYFHS), which will be used by providers as a reference document for provision of high quality, confidential, and non-judgemental services to young people.
Dr S Shantha Kumari, President, FOGSI, added: “Adolescence is one of the most remarkable and distinct phases for men and women, revolving around physical, psychological, sexual and social issues. Healthy adolescents are the backbone of any country. I am happy that FOGSI has taken steps to change the scenario and establish guidelines for AYFHS services. We are happy that these guidelines have been enriched by technical inputs from senior officials of Adolescent Health Division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India (GOI)”.
Dr. Alpesh Gandhi, Immediate Past President, FOGSI, said: “There is a need for greater awareness and for health care practitioners to be sensitive to the needs of this age group. I applaud all FOGSI members who were involved in conceptualising and drafting the AYFHS guidelines. This is an important proactive step, which can be easily adopted by the current health delivery system. I encourage all FOGSI members to take note of the guidelines and the Pankh Initiative. We look forward to suggestions on what more can be done.”
Dr Jaydeep Tank, Project Lead (FOGSI-USAID Projects), said: “The Pankh guidelines are in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s global standards for the provision of quality healthcare services and support quality sexual and reproductive Health services. The primary intention is to improve the quality of care in private healthcare services, but they are equally applicable to facilities run by NGOs and the public sector. The ultimate purpose of implementing the standards is to increase utilisation of services, especially SRH-related, to contribute to better health outcomes.”
Dr Madhuri Patel, Secretary General, said “In spirit of the SDG 17 that calls for partnerships to achieve development goals, an issue of this scale and complexity requires more partners joining hands. FOGSI is looking to bring more corporates, foundations, philanthropists, donors, and development organizations onboard to scale up the Pankh initiative beyond the 4 pilot cities. We urge them to invest in India’s future by securing the health and wellbeing of young people. India’s youth cohort is big and growing and they must be equipped today with the critical knowledge and support they need to make the right choices and realize their goals for their future. FOGSI along with partners is endeavouring to trigger a dynamic transformation for the country, bringing a productivity dividend and growth pathways for all.”