As per UNICEF, India has the largest number of young people, aged 10-19 years in the world – 243 million out of 1.2 billion. This age group — referred to as adolescents — comprise one-fourth of India’s population and are key drivers of India’s future economic growth.

Recently, Project Streedhan, a campaign to raise awareness about anaemia among urban women has been launched by DSM, a global company which specialises in solutions for nutrition, health and sustainable living. This advertisement featuring a woman advocating for iron in women has went viral.  The commercial advertisement talks about women suffering from anaemia and insists to invest in iron in this Diwali.  Really a thought-provoking advertisement, this is the time we must think seriously about this problem which has long been ignored.

UNICEF says 56 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys in the age group of 15-19 years in India suffer from anaemia. As per UNICEF, India has the largest number of young people, aged 10-19 years in the world – 243 million out of 1.2 billion. This age group — referred to as adolescents — comprise one-fourth of India’s population and are key drivers of India’s future economic growth.

While women with haemogloblin levels lower than 12.0 g/dL are considered anaemic if they are not pregnant, and levels lower than 11.0 g/dL signal anaemia in pregnant women, men with haemoglobin levels of less than 13.0 g per decilitre (dL) are considered anaemic, as per World Health Organization norms. For making haemoglobin red, strong and healthy, the body chiefly needs iron, folic acid, vitamin C, protein and vitamin B12. These are essential nutrients which our body cannot make on its own and need to consumed as part of a healthy diet. Deficiency of these nutrients in diet leads to decreased concentration of haemoglobin, making it thin and pale in colour.

Anemia, which is marked by low-haemoglobin levels, is usually triggered by iron deficiency caused due to poor nutrition. The condition continues to claim lives, yet not much awareness is there about this deficiency that is most commonly diagnosed in girls and women. According to the World Health Organisation, “anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking, and pregnancy status.”

It can lead to issues related to physical well-being including weakness, fatigue, and delayed mental and psychomotor development, as well as a higher risk of maternal morbidity. Further, it also reduces the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen and can lead to a number of health problems, and even cause death.

Eating foods rich in iron like spinach (palak), fenugreek (methi), dates (khajur), meat, fish, eggs and taking Iron Folic Acid (IFA) tablets once a week, is advised. Additionally, deworming tablets need to be taken once in six months to prevent anaemia in adolescents. As per UNICEF, tea and coffee two hours before and after meal should be avoided as it inhibits absorption of iron into the body. Vitamin C rich food i.e. citrus fruits like amla, guava, ber, oranges and lemon should be taken along with meal containing iron as it improves iron absorption.

Raise awareness and speak to as many people as possible.

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