ADOLESCENCE CRUCIAL AGE FOR HEALTH OF TOMORROW’S
WHO hosts consultation to ensure
health services respond to adolescent needs in north and south
than half of all new HIV infections, some
2.4 million each year, are among 15-24 year-olds. Adolescent suicide
is increasing and is responsible for at least 100.000 annual deaths in
young people world-wide. Adolescent abortions are estimated between 2
and 4 million per year, most of which are unsafe because performed
illegally. Of the estimated 333 million new sexually transmitted
diseases that occur in the world every year, at least 111 million
occur in young people under 25.
Adolescence is a crucial time for the health and
future of an individual and ultimately of entire societies. Key to
ensuring the development of healthy societies is the availability of
quality health services that reflect adolescents’ concerns and
needs. In spite of this, there is an alarming gap in health service
provision to adolescents in both wealthy and poor nations.
To address the issue, WHO, in partnership with
other UN and bilateral agencies, international NGOs and health service
providers from over 20 developing countries, will hold a 3 day meeting
in Geneva, at WHO Headquarters, from 7-9 March. The meeting will seek
to develop a global action agenda to facilitate better quality and
more 'friendly' health services for adolescents, taking into account
the economic and socio-cultural constraints that exist in many parts
of the world.
"Improving the health choices and
opportunities of adolescents essentially means contributing to the
health and energy of societies," says Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO’s
Director General. "This requires a scaling up of health systems
world-wide to deal with urgent social issues and place health at the
centre of development."
Studies carried out by WHO and other UN partners
point to the fact that this difficult passage in life is often marked
by a reticence, on the part of health workers, educators and other
'adolescent-serving' adults to deal with the crucial choices that
adolescents face in connection with sexuality, mental health,
substance use and violence.
The health and development of adolescents in the
developing world is further hindered by poverty and lack of
opportunities. In the least developed countries, only 13% of girls and
22% of boys enrol for secondary education. In some of the developing
world 8 out of 10 unemployed people are under 24. One of the alarming
results is the high incidence of maternal mortality in girls under 18,
which is 2 to 5 times higher than in women from 18 to 25.
On the other hand, surveys prepared for the WHO
meeting by health experts in 4 industrialized countries show that
wealth is not enough to ensure adequate adolescent health services.
Australian, Canadian, Swedish and US case studies show that health
services are either unfriendly to adolescents’ needs, do not provide
the confidentiality the young clients demand, or simply do not address
some of the problems adolescents grapple with on a daily basis. As a
consequence, many adolescents do not use the health services made
available to them.
Parents, teachers, health workers and other
community members have important contributions to make to promoting
and safeguarding adolescent health. The role of health services in
helping ill adolescents to recover good health is well recognized. In
addition, they have an important contribution to make in helping
adolescents stay well through the provision of information and
preventive services. Promising approaches have been put in place in
many countries to make it easier for adolescents to access the health
services they need. The challenge will be to apply 'best practices' as
widely as possible in all regions.
For further information please contact Daniela
Bagozzi, WHO Geneva, telephone: (+41 22) 791 45 44, fax: (+41 22) 791
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