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Adolescents call for action on health from world leaders

Adolescents Call for Action on Health from World Leaders
Serah, 17, from Kenya wants less talk and more action on health issues affecting young people

What challenges do adolescents face?

Adolescents call for action on health from world leaders
Shatsugham, 17 from India thinks health centres should have male and female counsellors

Gender and societal pressures

Firstly, they told us that the problems they face are not just biological, they are also hugely influenced by social pressures. They spoke frankly about sex and sexuality, sharing stories of adolescent girls left ignorant of bodily changes like periods; being harassed and pressurised into sexual relationships; and forced from school into early marriage.

My parents said that studying until 12th class (higher secondary school) is enough for you.

– Heena, 18, India

Rafaela, 17 from Brazil wants more attention on young people's emotional health
Rafaela, 17 from Brazil wants more attention on young people's emotional health

Mental health

Across Kenya, India and Brazil, the teenagers we work with were clear that for them, mental health is at least as important as physical. They talked about the terrible toll of problems like depression and addiction and the compounding effects of stigma – and they were clear about the complex factors involved in psychological illness: poverty, social pressure, ignorance and lack of support. Young people felt their voices were not being listened to.

Most health facilities in my community do not take the issues of young people seriously

– Derick, 13, Kenya

Adolescents call for action on health from world leaders
Sarjana, 19 from India says they have adolescent friendly health clinics, but that the appointment timings are not suitable for young people, who have to put their education on hold to go to the doctors

Accessibility

There’s no question that the challenges are complex. But adolescents are confident not just that there’s a way forward, but that some simple, practical changes would make a huge difference to them. For example, several said that they struggled to access health services because clinic timings clashed with the school day, costs were too high, or staff lacked expertise. Other practical ideas include integrating health and education, for example appointing health counsellors in schools and incorporating health education into the curriculum.

Medicine should be available free of cost to young people.

- Sonia, 17, India

ADOLESCENT HEALTH MANIFESTO

Read about what adolescents want world leaders to know about healthcare

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