Who is responsible for adolescent health?

June 17, 2004

This week's editorial comments on the recently published WHO report about health and health behaviour of teenagers

'Young People's Health in Context is far more than just another finger-wagging and blame-apportioning exercise', comments the editorial. 'Yes, it does give a comparative account of key health indicators in 11-15-year-olds across countries, including alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis use, injuries, physical activity, bullying and fighting, and sexual behaviour. For example, while Italy is at third place in the number of 13-year-olds who drink weekly, it is one of five countries with the lowest number of 13-year-olds reporting having been drunk two or more times'.

Slow progress on the emergence of more specialist health services for adolescents-such as those pioneered in the USA and Australia in the 1980s-is viewed as an obstacle for improving adolescent health.

The editorial concludes: 'Who is responsible for adolescent health? First and foremost, young people themselves. Without their participation in identifying problems and devising strategies nothing can be achieved. What society-schools, policy-makers, and health professionals in particular-has to provide is non-judgmental information and education and easy access to services geared for adolescents specifically. Adolescents will then have a real choice for healthy living.'


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