Women, children and adolescents should be able to survive and thrive in terms of health in any setting, anywhere in the world. This notion was recently amplified by Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow.
Dr. Adu-Krow’s remarks in this regard were forthcoming during the recent launch of an initiative to address the needs of adolescents.
According to the PAHO/WHO Representative, Ministers of Health around the world, including Guyana, have committed to the implementation of global strategies for women, children and adolescents in terms of their health.
While each of the target groups must be given keen attention, Dr. Adu-Krow stressed the importance of the adolescence stage of life, and asserted that it cannot be underemphasised. “Adolescent is the transitioning from childhood to adulthood, which is one of the most dynamic stages of human development,” said Dr. Adu-Krow, as he pointed out that the experiences of childhood usually have an impact on adolescence, as does adolescence on adulthood.
He pointed out that “good health, which is physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, enables young people to make the most of their teenage years [but] some adolescents who make unsafe choices in vulnerable situations can have immediate life-threatening and sometimes costly consequences.”
But according to Dr. Adu-Krow, in 2012 there was a decrease in adolescent mortality to an estimated 1.3 million, down from 1.5 million in 2000. He noted that the mortality rate decreased from 126 to 111 per 100, 000 between 2000 and 2012 and underscored that “this modest decline of about 12 per cent continues the trend of the past 50 years.”
However, the PAHO/WHO Representative noted that while the mortality rates dropped in all regions and for all age groups, this was not the case for the 15–19 year old males in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Americas regions.
The leading causes of death among adolescents in 2012 were: road injury, HIV, suicide, lower respiratory infections, and interpersonal violence.
It was in the quest to improve the wellbeing of adolescents, that the PAHO/WHO Representative observed “globally adolescence has become a priority. Many low and middle income countries increasingly recognise that achieving the developmental goals require greater investment in adolescent health and development”.
It was in order to support such a move that the WHO introduced its ‘Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescent’s Health, 2016-2030’. The notion of having women, children and adolescents thrive is fully embraced by this strategy.
In fact the new Global Strategy aims to achieve the highest attainable standard of health for all women, children and adolescents and aims “to transform the future and ensure that every newborn, mother and child not only survives, but thrives.”
Updated through a process of collaboration with stakeholders led by the WHO, the Strategy builds on the successes of the 2010 Strategy and its ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement, which helped accelerate the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals and will act as a platform to put women, children and adolescents at the heart of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
According to the Strategy, “Concrete commitments and collective action are needed to harness the power of partnership and achieve the objectives of the Global Strategy for the health and wellbeing of every woman, child and adolescent.”
This is in keeping with recommendations of the Strategy that “Governments, parliamentarians, decision makers and policymakers at all levels will make the health of women, children and adolescents a political priority.”
Added to this, it has been suggested that funding be made available to implement comprehensive, evidence and human rights-based national health plans, with a focus on strengthening health systems and reaching marginalized people.
In so doing, it is expected that women, children and adolescents will be protected from the effects of catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditures, even as moves are made to allocate more funds for the cross-sector action, and research and innovation needed to improve health outcomes.
The strategy is also one that appeals to stakeholders to ensure the meaningful participation of all constituencies, including health-care professionals, the private sector, civil society, communities most affected by health inequities, adolescents and young people.
It also calls for, among other measures, the transparent monitoring and accountability mechanisms for resources, results and rights and emphasises the need to “ensure donor funding targets country priorities and track commitments, disbursement and impact [and] introduce or amend legislation and policies in line with human rights principles, including gender equality for all.”
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