BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Adolescent and School health: A Global Health Matter



Adolescent and School health: A Global Health MatterAccording to World Health Organization (WHO), adolescent health refers to the variety of strategies involved in preventing, identifying and treating teens and young people, as well as maintaining their health and well-being. Adolescent health and well-being encompasses the physical, emotional, social and metal health of adolescents that enable them participate fully in the family, school and community units. Adolescents consist of teenagers and young people, therefore, the term Adolescent Health is often used interchangeably with Youth Health.

WHO defines ‘Adolescents’ as individuals aged between 10-19 years, ‘Youth’ aged between 15-24 years and ‘Young People’ covers the age range of 10-24 years including all adolescents and youths. About 1.2 billion people, or 1 in 6 of the world’s population are adolescents, hence, it is important to understand that Adolescents are heterogeneous people who exist in various situations and possess different needs. The adolescent stage of human development is naturally accompanied with dramatic physical, sexual, psychological and social developmental changes, all occurring simultaneously. Consequently, this presents a critical period of information acquisition and decision making that ultimately increase risks to health and well-being. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is easier and more effective to acquire healthy behaviors during adolescence than trying to change unhealthy behaviors in adulthood.

Generally, adolescents are considered a healthy group as a result of high immunity of young people and absence of chronic diseases due to old age. However, many adolescents have died prematurely from accidents, substance abuse, drunkenness, suicide, violence, pregnancy related complications and other illnesses that are either preventable or treatable. Others are victims of hereditary diseases, long-term debilitating ill-health and disability. In addition, many serious diseases, illness or premature death later in adulthood have their origin in adolescence; for example, tobacco use in adolescence may lead to lung cancer in adult life; risky sexual behaviors may result in incurable, immune-compromising sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS; poor eating and exercise habits lead to obesity and other weight related illnesses; some mental health disorders (such as depression) in adulthood start by age 14, but most cases are undetected and untreated.

Adolescent health is important because illnesses can hinder their ability to grow, develop and reach their full potential in life. Adolescence is an exciting stage of life full of self-discoveries and youthful exuberance. Adolescent behaviors may be influenced at the individual, peer, family, school, community, and societal levels. At the start of this period, many adolescents begin to mature and develop physically. They also become adventurous, trying out many new things which may compromise their health. This is why most preventable health risk behaviors are often started during adolescence and continue into adulthood, contributing to the leading causes of death. Some of these risky behaviors include substance abuse, drunk driving, violence, unprotected sexual intercourse and other poor behaviors which are began within the adolescent age range. In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million adolescents died- over 3000 daily, mostly due to preventable or treatable causes. For this group, road traffic injuries, respiratory infections, suicide, complications from pregnancy and childbirth, diarrheal diseases, and drowning are the major causes of death. Among girls aged 15 to 19 years, there are 44 births per 1000 annually.

To improve the health of young people, many sectors of the society should contribute to adolescent health, safety, and well-being- a collaborative effort that engages multiple partners. Government agencies and International organizations such as WHO, CDC and United Nations initiate or participate in producing evidence-based guidelines to support health services and other sectors, making recommendations to governments on adolescent health, providing high quality, age-appropriate health services, documenting progress in adolescent health and development, designing adolescent focused interventions and raising awareness of health issues for young people among the general public and other interested stakeholders.

The school environment is considered the best place, to develop healthy behaviors since schools have direct contact with millions of students daily during the most critical years of their social, physical, and intellectual development- adolescence. Research has shown that school health programs reduce the prevalence of risky behaviors among young people as well as have a positive effect on academic performance. Consequently, schools play a major role in promoting the health and safety of young people as well as helping them establish lifelong healthy behaviors.

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