The Punjab health department has launched a statewide drive to give iron-folic acid (IFA) tablets for preventing anaemia among adolescents under the weekly iron-folic acid supplements programme in the state.
Health minister Madan Mohan Mittal on Tuesday said the department had also taken steps to prevent side effects of IFA. He said health education was being imparted to students as well as teachers to prevent anaemia and malnutrition.
Mittal said guidelines had been issued to all civil surgeons and the education department, adding that emergency response medical teams had been constituted in every hospital to deal with any emergency due to IFA side effects.
The minister said adolescents were given IFA tablets weekly (52 per year) and two tablets of albendazole every six months.
Dr Ashok Nayar, director, health services, Punjab, stated that according to the guidelines, IFA tablets should not be taken on an empty stomach. He said abdominal pain, vomiting or loose motions (diarrhoea) were some of the IFA side effects if taken on an empty stomach.
He added that students who were not provided mid-day meal had been instructed to bring their lunch from home on the day IFA tablets were given and teachers had been advised to ensure that IFA tablets were given to students only after meals.
Dr Nayar said according to the national population health survey-3 (NPHS), 56% of the adolescent girls and 30% of the adolescent boys were suffering from anaemia in India. Punjab's corresponding figures are 45% and 30%, respectively.