Friday, September 2, 2016

Adolescent-Friendly Health Services

Complications linked to pregnancy and childbirth are the second cause of death for 15-19-year-old girls globally. 

Some 11% of all births worldwide are to girls aged 15 to 19 years, and the vast majority are in low- and middle-income countries. The 2014 World Health Statistics put the global adolescent birth rate at 49 per 1000 girls this age - country rates range from 1 to 229 births per 1000 girls. This indicates a marked decrease since 1990. This decrease is reflected in a similar decline in maternal mortality rates among 15-19 year olds. 

One of the specific targets of the health Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3) is that by 2030, the world should ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and  programmes. To support this, a proposed indicator for the "Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health" is the adolescent birth rate.

Better access to contraceptive information and services can reduce the number of girls becoming pregnant and giving birth at too young an age. Laws that specify a minimum age of marriage at 18 and which are enforced can help. 

Girls who do become pregnant need access to quality antenatal care. Where permitted by law, adolescents who opt to terminate their pregnancies should have access to safe abortion.

Making Health Services Adolescent-Friendly

Adolescents (aged 10 – 19 years) are unique. Not only is adolescence a period of life when people are particularly vulnerable to certain health issues, it is also a time when critical behaviours are shaped that will affect health in the future. They need quality health services that recognize this. 

WHO and UNAIDS have developed new global standards to improve the quality of health services for all adolescents. These infographics show some of the ways we can do this.

Making Health Services Adolescent-Friendly, Infographic, WHO
Source: WHO

Making Health Services Adolescent-Friendly, Infographic, WHO
Source: WHO

Making Health Services Adolescent-Friendly, Infographic, WHO
Source: WHO

Making Health Services Adolescent-Friendly, Infographic, WHO
Source: WHO

WHO Response

In May 2014, WHO published a major report called “Health for the world’s adolescents”. The report analyses what is known about adolescents’ health, including what promotes or undermines it, highlights gaps in policies and services, and draws together guidance and recommendations from across WHO. The report, which focuses on the health sector, examines areas of significant improvements and innovative approaches. 

WHO also provides technical advice to the UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, and is working with other UN agencies and partners to develop a Global Accelerated Action for the Health of Adolescents (AA-HA!) Framework, which will aim to help countries to decide what to do in adolescent health and how to do it. 

Overall, WHO carries out a range of functions to improve the health of young people, including:
  • production of evidence-based guidelines to support health services and other sectors;
  • making recommendations to governments on adolescent health and the provision of high quality, age-appropriate health services for adolescents;
  • raising awareness of health issues for young people among the general public and special groups.


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