The Second Decade - Improving Adolescent Health and Development

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Adolescents are generally thought to be healthy. By the second decade of life, they have survived the diseases of early childhood, and the health problems associated with ageing are still many years away. Death seems so far removed as to be almost unthinkable. Yet many adolescents do die prematurely. Every year, an estimated 1.7 million young men and women between the ages of 10 and 19 lose their lives - mostly through accidents, suicide, violence, pregnancy related complications and illnesses that are either preventable or treatable. Millions more suffer chronic ill health and disablement that may well endure a lifetime. Even more importantly, most mortality in adulthood has its roots in the adolescent period. WHO estimates that 70% of premature deaths among adults are largely due to behaviour initiated during adolescence. Tobacco use, for example, typically starts before the age of 20, and frequently leads to premature death later in life. HIV infection, which is often contracted in adolescence, leads to AIDS some years later. This advocacy document aims to attract and promote attention to adolescent health and development issues. Based on the principles of the WHO/UNFPA/UNICEF framework for country programming. Death, disability and illness due to four adolescent health issues are explored: sexual and reproductive health, tobacco and other substance use, suicide and road traffic accidents. Central to the discussions of these health issues are the connections to be made between them and the principles for action at country level.

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