‘Health & Wellness’ at Keystone is one of the components of a larger programme – “Community Well-being”. This programme covers wide-ranging aspects that improve the health and wellbeing of Adivasi communities of the Nilgiris. In the month of Jan 2018, several intervention workshops regarding adolescent health were held across schools located in the Sigur, Konavakarai & Kunjapanai region of the Nilgiris. Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical, physiological & psychological development. According to the Adolescent Health Division Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Government of India – about 21% of Indian population are adolescents. As per the 2011 census, there are about 1.24 crore adolescent children in Tamil Nadu, half of whom live in rural areas. In tribal communities – access and availability of health care, absence of proper guidance from elders, minimal emphasis on reproductive & sexual health in schools are some of the major barriers that prevent these children from leading a healthy and safe lifestyle.

The module developed for this workshop addressed factors such as nutrition, personal hygiene, substance abuse, behavioral change & their role in the society, all of which are interlinked.

Nutritional requirements are relatively high during the adolescent age. Under-nutrition has led to high mortality and morbidity rate among young tribal children. During this session, students were lectured on the importance of adequate nutritional intake for growth, to boost endurance and immune systems, and energy for brains and muscles etc. Children living in tribal ecosystems generally consume more traditional tuber crops and greens, but lately many have succumbed to conventional junk food. Pushing them to consume traditional food is a task, which will be achieved gradually.

Personal Hygiene & Cleanliness
Adolescence is the right time to teach the basics of hygiene. As their body transforms, their personal hygiene will also need to change. Children were lectured on basics such as washing hands before eating and after using the toilet, dental hygiene, changing under-garments etc. all of which that have been effective ways to fight germs. Personal hygiene sessions were held separately for girls and boys.

Substance Abuse
This is yet another problem among adolescents as their ignorance levels to the consequences are high. A peer group was formed to raise awareness on smoking, alcoholism etc. as peers are a core influence on their behaviour.

Role in the society
This was an open conversation session which focused on preparing the children to understand the greater roles they will have to take up in the society as they grow up.

Empowering and involving growing children with such opportunities will help them grow into a successful adult. The workshop envisaged that these children are able to make informed and responsible decisions related to their health and well being. The workshop benefited 110 girls and 138 boys covering five schools.