Increasing Threat to Adolescent Health from Violence and Discrimination Globally

Highlights:

  • Compared to 1990,
    the number of multi burden nations (marked by extreme poverty) has
    drastically decreased in 2016. However, it is estimated that over 250
    million adolescents (10-24 years) live in these low-income countries
  • The multi burden
    countries are primarily from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and
    adolescents living in these countries face a triple threat to their
    health, namely from infections, non-communicable lifestyle diseases as
    well as injuries
  • The current study
    identifies key adolescent health issues and calls for urgent action by the
    global health community to address these issues to ensure a healthier
    young population who will be able to strengthen their country’s economic
    health as well substantially

Adolescent population, particularly those living in multi
burden countries face serious threats to their health from three main aspects including infections, non-communicable diseases and injuries which could hamper
their future health as well as have a negative bearing on the country’s economy
if not urgently addressed as they remain the country’s future workforce.

Why is
Adolescent Health Important?

Adolescent health remains
poorly covered in global surveys
and data is scarce. However, the inclusion
of adolescents in Countdown to 2030, which
previously focused exclusively on maternal and child health, is no doubt a
welcome step in the right direction.

The
multi burden countries are primarily from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and
adolescents living in these countries face a triple threat to their health,
namely from infections, non-communicable lifestyle diseases as well as injuries.

‘An increase in the adolescent population in many low-income and middle-income countries has the potential to provide an educated and able-bodied workforce to strengthen the economy of these countries. However, if adolescent health issues plaguing these nations are not addressed urgently, the economy will suffer badly and these issues will have health implications later in life as well.’
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Compared
to 1990, the number of multi burden nations (marked by extreme poverty) has
drastically decreased in 2016. However, it is estimated that over 250 million
adolescents (10-24 years) live in these low-income countries.

The study was conducted by Azzopardi and his team to focus on adolescent health and to
identify key issues
that need to be addressed. The findings of the study
appear in the Lancet journal.

Top 12
Headline Indicators of Adolescent Health and Well Being

The team outlined 12 headline indicators to measure the
state of adolescent health and well being in 195 nations so that appropriate
corrective measures can be urgently implemented. The age group of the
population studied was 10-24 years.

The 12 health adolescent health
indicators identified include the following:

  • Adolescent health outcomes in three categories
    • Infectious diseases, maternal and nutritional diseases
    • Violence and injuries
    • Non-communicable diseases
  • Prevalence of adolescent health risks
  • Social determinants of health
    • Twelve years or more of education in persons 20-24 years
    • Individuals between 20-24 years not in education, employment, or training (NEET)
    • Annual birth rate per 1000 adolescents aged 10-19 years
    • Marriage before 18 years in females 20-24 years
    • Satisfaction with contraception demands being met in females 15-24 years

Key Findings
of Study (Changes From 1990-2016)

  • Nations were classified as a multi burden (70), a predominantly non-communicable disease
    prevalent (88) and injury excess (37)
    nations. The figures in brackets represent values in 2016, which shows improvement from 1990 when 90 countries were classified as
    multi burden nations
  • The number of adolescents globally has increased
    from 1.53 billion to 1.8 billion in 2016
  • The majority of multi burden countries currently are
    from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
  • The major threat to
    adolescent health globally in 2016 was
    from non-communicable diseases (NCD) and the major share of NCD was
    accounted for by adolescents in multi burden nations
  • Young women have
    poorer health outcomes than young males in multi burden countries
  • Global prevalence
    of adolescent smokers reduced by 20 percent during this period; however multi burden countries saw an increase in adolescent
    smoking
    with a 10 percent prevalence
  • Global prevalence
    of binge drinking among teenagers aged 15-19 years showed little change
    from 1990
  • Nearly 77
    percent of new anemia cases in
    adolescents during this period was
    seen in multi burden nations; in some countries including India the
    prevalence was over 50 percent in young
    women
  • 20
    percent of adolescents worldwide are overweight; in the
    US over 40 percent of
    adolescents are overweight or obese
  • Young women in
    low-income countries have the
    lowest prevalence of completing secondary education and
    being happy with contraceptive demands being met, coinciding with a high
    prevalence of child marriages and adolescent live births compared to other
    groups of nations
  • Prevalence of
    NEET is higher in multi burden countries and especially in young women
    compared to men reflecting gender inequalities and regressive practices
    such as child marriages
  • India had the
    highest rates of death in nearly every category in 2016 including from
    communicable diseases
  • Injuries accounted
    for most deaths in China (20,970 of the reported 39,430), mainly due to
    drowning

Prof Patton, one of the key authors, says “Achieving gender equity in determinants of adolescent health
and wellbeing will require action on many fronts, including employment and
economic empowerment, better access to essential health care including
contraception, implementation of legislative frameworks to protect girls from
early marriage, and changes in community norms.”

Improving
Adolescent Health – Urgent Need of the Hour

  • The findings of
    the study highlight the urgent need to act by the global health community.
    The 12 parameters identified as
    adolescent health indicators should be targeted
    in development and
    health programs by policymakers
  • There should be
    focused on counseling and screening adolescents for risky behavior with
    appropriate interventions to safeguard their future health
  • Adolescent health
    programs should be integrated into
    national health programs
    due to multiple factors and morbidities that
    need to be addressed, which current programs focusing on individual
    diseases or conditions fail to address

Summary

Adolescents are the future of any nation and it is essential
to address adolescent health issues to safeguard their future health as well as
the health of the nation.

References :

  1. Progress in adolescent health and wellbeing: tracking 12 headline indicators for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016 – (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32427-9)

Source: Medindia