59. Adolescent Health Programs

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Abstract

Richard Lord, www.rlordphoto.com

Although adolescence appears to be a relatively healthy period of life given the low mortality rates of young people, adolescents and young adults engage in a range of behaviors that affect the quality of their health and the probability of their survival, in both the short and long terms.

Young people's vulnerability to risky or unwanted sex and other unhealthy behaviors is tied to a host of individual, family, and community factors that influence their behavior and that are closely related to economic and education opportunities. Poverty and inadequate health systems compound adolescent vulnerability to sickness and early death.

Prevention should be emphasized because so much of the disease burden is preventable. Effective programs to improve the health of adolescents include multisector solutions that link health sector interventions with other types of interventions, such as life skills, health and sexuality education, peer education, community involvement, clinical health services, and private sector programs.

Programs for adolescents require an approach different from simply applying programs for adults to a younger population. Effective programs for adolescents share a set of common principles, such as recognizing diversity and addressing nonhealth factors that influence youth health. The special needs of poor adolescents must also be addressed. Research is critical in several areas to ensure that adolescent health interventions are effective.