New report details efforts to improve teens' health and well-being

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is releasing the second edition of its biennial report. “Working for a brighter, healthier future: how WHO improves the health and promotes wellbeing of the world's adolescents”This document outlines WHO's response at three levels – headquarters, regional and country offices – to meet the multifaceted needs of the estimated 1.3 billion adolescents (aged 10-19 years) worldwide.

“This report presents many examples of WHO's efforts to improve the health and well-being of adolescents,” said Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director of WHO's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Aging. “This is done through collaboration and coordination of new initiatives, development of norms and standards, policy guidance and setting ambitious objectives with development partners and stakeholders.”

Important milestones for improving adolescent health

  • WHO launched several major initiatives aimed at supporting the participation of young people and their involvement in addressing global health priorities, including the establishment of the Youth Council; the Briefing Centre; the Global Model WHO; the Youth Representative Programme; and the Global Platform for Adolescents and its 1.8 billion Young People for Change campaign. Regional initiatives such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Youth for Health Group and the South-East Asian Youth Network were also strengthened.
  • WHO released the second edition of the Global Accelerated Action for Adolescent Health (AA-HA!), which provides the latest available data on adolescent health and outlines a new list of key indicators for adolescent health measurement. Informed by the AA-HA! guidance, many more governments are investing in comprehensive and evidence-based adolescent health and well-being programs developed in close consultation with adolescents and young people.
  • WHO has developed policies to protect children from the harmful effects of food marketing, which recommends countries implement comprehensive mandatory policies to protect children from the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages rich in saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, free sugars and/or salt. It also released a technical report on reducing alcohol harm by regulating cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion, which highlights the importance of marketing strategies and controlling or restricting alcohol marketing to reduce alcohol harm.
  • Good nutrition during childhood and adolescence is the basis for many benefits in health and well-being. Policy action to improve the diets of children and adolescents is central to addressing obesity. Motivating to promote healthy eating in schools, a WHO policy brief, reviewed the evidence on the potential for implementing small, subtle changes that affect school-based food choices. The brief proposed five steps for implementation of the Motivating approach through the involvement of school stakeholders and provided several case studies with examples.

“These are just some of the highlights of our work over the last two years and the report provides further insight into all our collective efforts across the organization,” Dr. Banerjee said. “It shows how much we can achieve when we work together towards a common goal to promote, provide, protect, empower and demonstrate the health and well-being of adolescents.”

The coming decade

Today’s adolescents are healthier than they were just a few decades ago and have greater opportunities to develop their full potential. However, the scale and scope of global threats to their health, including conflict, the climate crisis and other humanitarian emergencies, all compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, now put decades of progress at serious risk.

“We are committed to strengthening our culture of partnerships with civil society and young people, the private sector and parliaments in health and other priority areas,” said Dr Banerjee. “Working on WHO initiatives such as the Youth Council and the Civil Society Commission will help accelerate action by focusing on human rights, accountability and community engagement. It will also create strong mechanisms to involve civil society, community-based organisations and youth groups in our work.”

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