Medi-snippets: Pride of place for adolescent health, a refreshing step in policy | Sunday Observer

Medi-snippets: Pride of place for adolescent health, a refreshing step in policy

6 October, 2019

Welcoming recent reports quoting top health officials on giving pride of place to adolescent health and encouraging youth to participate in such discussions, Senior Lecturer in Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sri Jayawardenepura and President Sri Lanka Association for Child Development ( SLACD ) Dr Saraji Wijesekara told the Sunday Observer that such a policy approach would go a long way in creating a youth friendly society in Sri Lanka.

She said the age group of15 to 24 was the age group where young people undergo rapid emotional, physical and intellectual transition from childhood to adolescence and to independent adulthood. “Though they get physical maturation by 10-16 years, brain maturation continues up to mid-twenties. They experiment new exciting things without reasonable ability to perceive the consequences thus risking their lives. They may adopt unhealthy practices like smoking, alcohol, illicit drug abuse, poor dietary habits, sedentary lifestyles and practising unsafe sex that could extend up to adulthood and lead to early Non Communicable Diseases, psychiatric illnesses or premature death and unwanted teenage pregnancies,” she said. There should be a policy approach to prevent the harmful behaviours and practices, she emphasised.

She said “It is the responsibility of the entire society to enforce policies that ensure psychosocial wellbeing, improve life skill based health education, empower the school community to reduce risk behaviours and train teachers on life skills to organise life skill camps for children.” There should be a general health policy to screen adolescents for illnesses, support school community to improve recreational and sports facilities for schoolchildren, and provide opportunities for co-curricular and extracurricular activities, she noted. Health promoting strategies like growth monitoring, nutritious meal, iron and vitamin supplementation are important she said adding that Health Promotion activities be made mandatory in the school curriculum. She said that the Adolescent and Youth Friendly Health Service (AYFHS) concept was introduced in Sri Lanka in 2005, and national standards for AYFHS was developed in 2006. The WHO/UNAIDS global standards for quality health care services for adolescents was developed in 2015 to enable adolescents to obtain the optimum health services in an adolescent friendly manner.

Rat Fever cases rise as 11 districts exceed 100 in September

Following the Disaster Management Centre’s (DMC) warning that the prevailing adverse weather conditions in the country are likely to continue indefinitely, the Epidemiology Unit has alerted all health officials in state hospitals island wide and heads of all health institutions to take protective measures to prevent the current spread of Leptisirosis (Rat Fever) .

Epidemiology Unit sources said they had already begun educating health officers as well as those identified as being most at risk of getting the disease by issuing pamphlets in Sinhala and Tamil. They said, farmers, persons working in gem mines and in garbage collection were among the most vulnerable to getting this infection if infected rat urine or faeces entered their bodies. They urged all persons who had cuts and wounds on their feet and hands to refrain from working until the wounds healed and to wear protective clothes and boots at all times while working. “We have ensured that every hospital in high risk and other areas have adequate stocks of prophylactic antibiotics for their patients and that all doctors inform high risk persons to take Doxycycline before commencing work,” they said.

Leptisirosis is a treatable but potentially zoonotic infectious disease and has reportedly seen an increase in the number of cases in recent years. “Early detection and specific management results in better outcomes,” Epidemiology sources said. They said the National Reference Library for Leptispirosis, Dept.of Bacteriology at the Medical Research Institute ( MRI) offers diagnostic tests for the disease for the entire country.

The total number of Letispirosis cases up to September 30 stood at 3,457, with 11 districts exceeding 100, four over 200 and Ratnapura 741. The Colombo district had 167 while Kalutara registered 451 suspected cases and Galle 335 followed by Hambantota 318 cases.

EPU sources said the numbers were higher than those in the previous year which recorded 5,257 cases for the entire year. “We already have 3,457 cases. So it is likely that with the onset of the monsoons in November the cases will surge.” DMC sources have meanwhile assured they were ready for any emergency.

New strain of drug resistant malaria no threat to Sri Lanka

The Anti Malaria Campaign has all the required technology and facilities to detect any type of malaria. It is therefore unlikely that Sri Lanka would be affected by the new drug resistant strain of malaria now affecting South East Asia, Anti Malaria Campaign Director, Dr. Hemantha Herath told the Sunday Observer. He said the AMC had one of the best surveillance systems in the world and these strains could be detected without any failure.

Assuring that there was no need for panic and that second line drugs were available to treat drug resistant malaria, he said patients infected by it could be cured and there was no risk of death.

Sri Lanka eliminated malaria in 2016 but a few cases have been reported. “These are all ‘imported’ cases . There is no local transmission. The fact that large numbers of people are travelling to and from countries affected by the disease and we also have several foreign workers, puts us at constant risk of malaria re-entering the country. We provide drugs free of charge for those travelling abroad to high risk malaria countries to prevent getting infected during their stay”, he said.