Adolescents and youth play an important role in society, making up a sizeable 40% of the population of Africa. Generally adolescents are considered to be a “healthy” subset of the population, and as a result their health needs are often overlooked.
However, empowering young people in their health development allows them to transition into adulthood better equipped to serve their communities, enabling productivity and stimulating economic growth. Furthermore, as most habits detrimental to health are acquired at an early stage, manifesting themselves more severely in adulthood, it is critical to educate and build the resilience of adolescents so that they may avoid poor health outcomes, such as NCDs (e.g. lung cancer caused by the consumption of tobacco). By taking on this proactive approach towards healthy ageing, any added financial burden on health systems can be avoided. As such, protecting the health and wellbeing of adolescents and youth is a priority for Africa Health Organisation.
AHO defines adolescents as those aged 10-19 years, while young population includes those aged 16-24 years. Adolescent Health is part of AHO Child and Adolescent Health Programme.
Adolescents are prone to early unwanted pregnancies, septic abortions, sexual abuse, HIV, alcohol and substance use and abuse and vulnerability to risks associated with early sexual activity and child marriage, and limited access to family planning services.
To better address adolescent and youth health issues, AHO is developing standards aimed at providing youth-friendly quality healthcare services and advocating for laws that require males and females to be 18 years of age or older before marriage.