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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

Invest in adolescents and young people: it pays

Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli1*, Rena Greifinger2, Adaeze Nwosu3, Gwyn Hainsworth4, Lakshmi Sundaram5, Sheena Hadi5, Fran McConville6, Regina Benevides4, Callie Simon4, Archana Patkar7, Eva Schoening8, Disha Sethi9, Amy Boldosser-Boesch10, Prateek Awasthi11, Arvind Mathur12 and Doortje Braeken13

Author Affiliations

1 Scientist, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

2 Technical Advisor, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Tuberculosis Department, Population Services International, Washington, USA

3 Health Policy and Management Student, Gillings School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA

4 Senior Advisor, Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, Pathfinder International, Watertown, USA

5 Global Coordinator, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, Aahung, Pakistan

6 Technical Officer, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland

7 Programme Manager, Networking and Knowledge Management, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Geneva, Switzerland

8 Senior Advisor, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights to the organization, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Geneva, Switzerland

9 Project Coordinator, Digital Media and Learning, The YP Foundation, New Delhi, India

10 Director, Global Advocacy, Family Care International, New York, USA

11 Technical Analyst, United Nations Population Fund, New York, USA

12 Medical Officer, Making Pregnancy Safer, WHO South East Asia Regional Office, New Delhi, India

13 Senior Advisor, Adolescents and Young People, International Planned Parenthood Federation, London, England

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Reproductive Health 2013, 10:51  doi:10.1186/1742-4755-10-51

Published: 16 September 2013

Abstract

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.