The Hans Foundation has partnered with The Government of NCT of Delhi in launching a first of its kind initiative – providing primary health care and mental health services through School Health Clinics in schools under the Directorate of Education, GNCTD.
Children have been repeatedly recognised as a vulnerable group by social scientists- making intervention at a primary level crucial. The health concerns of school children are mainly in the categories of malnutrition, infectious diseases, intestinal parasites, diseases of skin, eye, ear, dental caries etc. Most of these health situations can be handled at the level of a primary care OPD.
Moreover, rising mental health concerns among school going adolescents is widely spoken about but they largely go undiagnosed in the present health infrastructure present in schools. According to the WHO report, India tops the list of countries with the greatest burden of mental and behavioural disorders and nearly half of all mental health problems originate before the age of 15. A study conducted by Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) on 225 government schools found out that 36% of the students who dropped out consumed a substance. 12-13% of school students suffer from emotional, behavioural and learning problems. Suicide rates among children are perilously rising. A 2015 Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) study found that the mean age of street children in Delhi taking drugs was about 13 years with the mean initiation age being as low as 9 years!
As such working providing primary healthcare to children must go hand-in-hand with provision of mental health services as well. Health is a not merely absence of any disease or infirmity but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Holistic healthcare of children needs equal focus on physical as well as mental health.
With School Health Clinics, we seek to pair the interventions of diagnosis, treatment and prevention related to physical and mental health concerns of the children. Regular health check-ups and tests can help find health issues before they start and help find problems early where the chances for treatment and cure are better. Therefore, providing the right health services, screenings and treatments for children in schools will help them have a healthier life.
Each clinic will have one Psychologist, one ANM (Nursing Officer) and one Multi-Task Worker along with one Doctor (MBBS) for a cluster of five schools, who will visit each of these five schools once-a-week on rotational basis. These clinics will start functioning in 15 schools, as a pilot project.