Washington D.C, 3 October 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – Youth and adolescents throughout the Region of the Americas are disproportionately affected by a range of health issues including violence, suicide, road traffic accidents and substance abuse. Despite increased efforts by countries to develop adolescent youth health plans and policies, many of these have yet to translate into concrete action.
The Final Report on the Strategy and Plan of Action on Adolescent and Youth Health, presented at the 57th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), reveals that while countries and territories of the Region have developed policies to target these groups, this has had limited impact on health outcomes for youth.
Mortality rates for young people have increased since countries approved the Strategy and Plan of Action. Approximately half of these deaths are due to homicides, suicides and road traffic injuries with variations in results according to ethnicity, income level, educational level and place of residence.
While some advances have been made in reducing early and unintended pregnancy in girls under the age of 15, this remains a concern in the Region. Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the world with an upward trend in very early pregnancies, with around 2% of women of reproductive age having their first delivery before the age of 15.
Nutrition also remains an issue for young people in the Region. The proportion of overweight and obese adolescents in the Americas has increased, with adolescents aged 13-15 reporting frequent consumption of carbonated soft drinks and fast food, and low levels of regular physical activity.
In order to combat these issues, technical cooperation was provided to Member States for the development and implementation of adolescent health services, and 93% of countries and territories developed or updated youth policies, including national and adolescent health policies, adolescent pregnancy prevention plans, and national health plans with specific youth targets.
However, the report emphasizes that despite broad-based political commitment to improve the health of adolescents and youth, the insufficient allocation of human and financial resources has limited the implementation of existing policies, strategies and plans of action, and many youth continue to get left behind.
The report also highlights that adolescent and youth health efforts remain fragmented, and should focus on the development of comprehensive, multisectoral interventions that address multiple outcomes, risk factors, and determinants.
Further highlights from the report include:
- Total mortality for young people increased from 90.3 per 100,000 population in 2008 to 92.1 in 2015
- Mortality from road traffic injuries among adolescents aged 10-19 fell from 10.8 to 9.8 per 100,000
- The suicide rate among young people aged 10-24 increased from 5.9 to 6.2 per 100,000
- The homicide rate among males aged 15-24 increased from 70.5 to 75.5 per 100,000
- The percentage for births among adolescents aged 15-19 fell from 17.2% to 15.7% in Latin America and the Caribbean
The report recommends that countries increase efforts to accelerate progress by implementing low-cost, evidence-based interventions in families and communities at scale to improve the mental, physical, sexual and reproductive health of adolescents. Furthermore, the report advocates for increased involvement of adolescents in policy-making processes, and for the monitoring and systematic analysis of health inequities affecting adolescents.