Adolescents failed by policies

2016-10-02 06:02

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Decades of neglect and underinvestment in adolescents by policymakers have led to a devastating effect on the health and wellbeing of the younger generation, a new Lancet report reveals.

While the report does not give statistics on the extent of the problem, it does state that 10- to 24-year-olds across the world are battling with preventable health problems such as HIV and Aids, early pregnancy, mental disorders, injury and violence.

Launching the report in Johannesburg this week, lead author Professor George Patton said countries need to prioritise adolescent health and wellbeing in their policies.

This should start with a comprehensive view of sexual and reproductive health, and include HIV and other infectious diseases. Also of significant interest is attention on nutritional deficiencies, injury and violence, chronic physical health problems, and mental and substance use disorders.

“This generation of young people can transform all our futures. There is no more pressing task in global health than ensuring they have the resources to do so,” Patton said.

Adolescents make up a quarter of the world’s population and 89% of them live in developing countries. In South Africa, 18.5% of the population is made up of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19.

Dr Yogan Pillay who is the deputy director-general for HIV/Aids, TB and maternal, child and women’s health at the national department of health, acknowledged that adolescents were “falling through the cracks” when it comes to tailoring interventions targeted at them.

However, he said that would soon change as the National Adolescent and Youth Health Policy is being refined and finalised. It will focus on key areas, including providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, treating TB and HIV among young people, reducing obesity, and reducing substance abuse and violence.

“We are trying to rethink how we engage with the youth and how we design health programmes together with the consideration of the social determinants differently to the way we did previously. I am afraid we didn’t find many good practices with good quality evidence [in literature].

“All the things we have adopted in the draft of the National Adolescent and Youth Health Policy will be good on paper, but difficult to implement unless we figure out the how. If we don’t, we will be no further in improving adolescent health in South Africa,” Pillay cautioned.

However, Patton commended South Africa for ensuring that adolescents have programmes targeted at their needs.

Read more on:    lancet  |  johannesburg  |  health

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