…but Govt. committed to intervening measures – Social Protection Minister
As youths transition from adolescence to adulthood they are more likely to be prone to serious health and safety issues. This notion was recently amplified by Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Amna Ally.
According to Ally, who was at the time addressing a forum at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown, some youths at this stage of their lives are subjected to violence, substance use and risky sexual behaviour that can adversely affect them.
“The effects of poor health during teenage years can have negative, life-long impact,” the Social Protection Minister asserted.
But Government, according to her, is committed to its young people. As such, she noted that “ensuring that adolescents are healthy is a valuable investment that we are fully committed to because we are cognisant that intervention during this period in [the lives of] young people is critical.”
She pointed out that strategic and well-planned implementable actions can result in positive adult health outcomes not only at the individual level but to our society as a whole.
“Studies have shown that young people growing up in circumstances of deprivation are more likely to engage in health risk behaviours and are more exposed to risk factors such as poor nutrition, low levels of exercise, and limited access to good quality services,” Minister Ally noted.
She however observed that poverty is perhaps the greatest contributor to poor health in Guyana.
“Therefore, if we as a society wish to improve the health of persons in our nation, particularly for children and young people, then addressing inequality, disadvantage and family poverty has to be at the heart of our programmes,” Ally posited.
She spoke of the need for adolescence to be recognised as a unique and critical stage of development, that can bring with it special challenges and opportunities during which physical, intellectual, emotional and psychological changes occur.
“While adolescence is a fairly healthy period, adolescents begin to make lifestyle choices and establish behaviours that can affect both their current and future health,” said Minister Ally.
She considered that many, if not all, of the priority health issues that affect adolescents and youths are inter-related, and thus require an integrated mechanism if intervening programmes are to succeed. She added, “The implementation of adolescents and youth health programmes requires a consorted multi-sectoral action by a diverse team of strategic actors and departments”.
“There must be integrated and coordinated actions between the health sector and the partners at the regional, national and local levels. These partners must include those of government entities – education, judicial, labour, public security, housing and the environment, among others – private institutions, the academic community, mass media, civil society, youth organisations, faith-based organisations and community groups including teachers, parents and young people themselves,” said Minister Ally.
She stressed that some of the issues that must be addressed include unwanted pregnancies, gender-based violence, sexual exploitation, sexually transmitted infections, poor nutrition, lack of oral health services, lack of physical activity, obesity and eating disorders, mental health issues, violence, road traffic accidents and substance abuse including: alcohol, tobacco and illicit substances.
And according to the Social Protection Minister, “It is important to note that behavioural changes in adolescents and youth are influenced by the environment in which they live, study and work. A favourable family and community environment is essential to achieve positive health and education results for our boys and girls. The development and support of adolescents and youth health promotion and prevention programme through community-based intervention is important, and I am happy and quite pleased to see the introduction of community parent support groups.”
Such support systems, the Minister said, will facilitate and further strengthen adolescent health programmes.
But added to this, she noted that strategic information is also critical for informed decision-making.
“In order for us to promote and secure the development of enabling environments and implementation of effective, comprehensive, sustainable and evidence-based policies on adolescent and youth health, key data is essential,” said Minister Ally.
However, she added that the acquisition of social and health data on young people remains a challenge, despite access to increasingly sophisticated information technology. She moreover pointed out that, “These are issues that must be addressed with the utmost urgency, so as to facilitate effective policies regarding the health of our adolescents. We as a society must formulate tools to promote the environment of adolescents and youths, and facilitate their meaningful participation in the communities where they live.”
This process, the Minister said, includes the identification of young people’s strengths and weaknesses, and the creation of opportunities for them to continue the decision making in the design and implementation of programmes that affect them. She also stressed the need to develop effective monitoring and evaluation of comprehensive programmes for adolescents and youths to not only ensure success, but also sustainability.
The Minister further shared that since technology can have a significant impact on the health of adolescents and youths, it is essential that “we work with mass media networks to promote positive images, values and behaviours regarding adolescents’ health, and to incorporate new technology in health promotion interventions.”
“I want to urge all persons in society to let us recommit to health, personal, spiritual, social, mental and physical development. I would like to categorically state that we must never grow weary of continuously highlighting the importance of investing in our children,” said Minister Ally.
She continued, “We can and must seek to create and establish strategic polices and programme-oriented goals that facilitate the development of their (adolescents) full potential, especially their health and well being.”
“We as a government are cognisant that investing in our children is necessary and morally imperative for creating an enabling environment for sustaining an equitable long term goal for our nation. That is why we will continue to develop programmes, because Guyana needs every single child to thrive in order to support a future of high productivity, innovation and economic growth,” Minister Ally underscored.
She moreover sought to encourage all sections of society to invest in young people since, according to her, “every investment made towards the development of the social and physical environment of adolescents is an investment in the future human capital of our nation.”
“Promoting the health, nutrition, education, safety and prosperity of the next generation is key to ensuring the survival and productivity of Guyana,” the Minister said in conclusion.
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