Health problems and health seeking behaviour among school-going adolescents in a rural area in South Karnataka
Introduction: Adolescence (10-19 years age group), a crucial time for growth and development, can sometimes be accompanied by mental, physical and learning problems. Around 9.8 million adolescents in India are in need of active intervention for mental health issues; however studies show that most adolescents do not access available adolescent health services.
Objectives: to assess morbidity patterns including psycho-social and learning problems among school-going adolescents and to document their health seeking behavior.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study among adolescents studying in four high schools in a rural area in Ramanagara district, South Karnataka. A face validated questionnaire was used to document reported health and learning problems and health seeking behavior. This included the Strength and Difficulty Questionnaire (SDQ) to screen for psychosocial problems. Data was entered in Microsoft Excel and analyzed using statistical package SPSS 16.
Results: 20.71% adolescents were overweight or obese, 79.7% reported at least one health problem, 63% had some learning problem and 10.5% had significant risk of mental health disorders. Individual SDQ domains revealed peer problem (47.4%), anti-social behavior (33%) and conduct problems (9.8%). For health problems, students mainly consulted a doctor (27.9%) or their teacher (26.6%). For learning problems 44.3% consulted their parents.
Conclusion: Majority of students in the present study had a health or learning problem, but health seeking behavior was poor. While the existing adolescent health services underReproductive Maternal Neonatal Child Health+ Adolescent Programme (RMNCH+A) need to be strengthened, by involving other stakeholders like teachers and parents as well as the adolescents themselves, many of the health and learning problems found in this study can be managed with simple interventions at the school level itself.