The Niti Aayog will soon come up with a comprehensive school healthcare programme that will focus on policy interventions needed to provide mental health promotion, prevention and interventions to schoolchildren while expanding and strengthening the existing health promotion and disease prevention measures under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, a senior government official told ET.
“Mental health is completely missing from the School Health Programme. Hence, we are drawing up a comprehensive plan that will focus on the mental well-being of children as well at the school level,” said the official, who did not wish to be identified.
Some of the interventions that could come in include preventive and remedial measures to help children cope up with stress, with greater role of the private sector to introduce and implement the programme across private schools in the country.
“This will have a huge multiplier effect. While the nation will have healthier and aware adults passing out of schools, it will substantially ease the burden on the existing healthcare system,” said the official.
The Aayog is holding consultations with relevant stakeholders, including the health ministry, the education ministry and the women and child development ministry, among others, to draw up the broad contours of the programme that could subsume the existing initiatives to make it more holistic and comprehensive while expanding its outreach.
Under VK Paul, member (health), the Aayog is driving the initiative and had last month conducted a national conference on School Health Programme. Senior officials of the World Health Organization, National Council of Educational Research and Training, states and non-governmental organisations participated in the event.
India has a significant shortage of mental health professionals, with just one professional available for every 100,000 people, and the cost of counselling or psychiatric consultations is very high, making it difficult for students to avail these services.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s ‘Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India’ report, more than 13,000 students died in India at the rate of more than 35 deaths per day.
Recognising schools as a useful platform, the government had launched the School Health Programme in 2018 under Ayushman Bharat.