Invest in adolescents and young people: it pays

This year's Women Deliver conference made a strong call for investing in the health and development of adolescents and young people. It highlighted the unique problems faced by adolescent girls and young women--some of the most vulnerable and neglected individuals in the world--and stressed the importance of addressing their needs and rights, not only for their individual benefit, but also to achieve global goals such as reducing maternal mortality and HIV infection.In response to an invitation from the editors of Reproductive Health, we-the sixteen coauthors of this commentary--put together key themes that reverberated throughout the conference, on the health and development needs of adolescents and young people, and promising solutions to meet them.1.Investing in adolescents and young people is crucial for ensuring health, creating prosperity and fulfilling human rights.2.Gender inequality contributes to many health and social problems.

Adolescent girls and boys, and their families and communities, should be challenged and supported to change inequitable gender norms.Child marriage utterly disempowers girls. It is one of the most devastating manifestations of gender discrimination.Negative social and cultural attitudes towards menstruation constrain the lives of millions of girls.

This may well establish the foundation for lifelong discomfort felt by girls about their bodies and reticence in seeking help when problems arise.3.Adolescents need comprehensive, accurate and developmentally appropriate sexuality education. This will provide the bedrock for attitude formation and decision making.4.Adolescent-centered health services can prevent sexual and reproductive health problems and detect and treat them if and when they occur.5.National governments have the authority and the responsibility to address social and cultural barriers to the provision of sexual and reproductive health education and services for adolescents and young people.6.Adolescents should be involved more meaningfully in national and local actions intended to meet their needs and respond to their problems.7.The time to act is now.

We know more now than ever before about the health and development needs of adolescents and young people, as well as the solutions to meeting those needs.

Published on: 2013-09-16

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