Adolescents and youngsters form the majority of population in India. This is a ‘cat on the wall’ stage which terrorizes every parent and excites every adolescent! Worldwide, there are around 1.2 billion people, almost 1 in every 6th person living in this world is an adolescent aged between 10 and 19 years. Adolescence is the period of maximal growth of an individual-girls and boys attain puberty, hormone levels change and they love to explore their body and mind. While most adolescents are healthy, some of them suffer from premature death, illness and injury due to alcohol/tobacco use, unprotected sex, sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise or exposure to violence/trauma. All these rips off the teenager of good health and affect their health lifelong as adults and also their children’s health. Avoiding such behaviors during adolescence and promoting healthy behavior in these individuals is needed to enable them to grow up into healthy adults who can reproduce healthy kids.
Some of the critical health issues that hit these people include:
Early pregnancy and childbirth
Globally, there are 44 births born of girls aged 15-19 years of every 1000 births (11% of total births) and early pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death in these girls. Enabling better access to contraceptive information and pills, specifying strict rules on minimal age for marriage and enforcing them can curb such early pregnancies greatly. If in case such adolescent girls do get pregnant, appropriate antenatal care must be provided and in countries where laws permit, safe abortion practices should be given for those who wish to terminate the pregnancy.
While the total number of deaths due to HIV is down by 30%, HIV-related deaths in adolescents are rising with around 2 million teenagers living with HIV and many of them even unaware of their HIV status. Youngsters must be made aware of ways to protect themselves, given access to these means and given better access to HIV testing and counselling services. Condoms for avoiding sexual transmission of the virus and clean needles/syringes for injecting drugs must be made available to them.
Vaccinations have helped decrease the attack of a great number of diseases including polio, measles and mumps. Still, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections are said to be the top 5 causes of death for 10-19-year olds.
Mental health problems
Depression is the 3rd leading cause of ill health and disability among adolescents and suicide is quoted as the third leading cause of death in adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years. Trauma, rape, violence, humiliation and poverty increase the chances of mental illness by multi-folds. Children should be trained in life skills and parents should develop a fine rapport with their children that enables them to detect any changes in their children’s behavior immediately.
Use of alcohol/drugs
Use of alcohol and drugs are major sources of other harmful issues such as unprotected sex, injuries due to road accidents, violence by a partner and premature deaths. Drugs availability must be reduced as drug use is dominant among 15-19-year olds. Injuries and deaths due to road accidents too is a major reason of death among adolescents. Blood-alcohol levels must be set lower for teenage drivers.
Malnutrition and obesity
Malnutrition and obesity exist at two ends of the spectrum in developing and under-developed countries. There are many children who enter adolescence as malnourished teenagers which makes them vulnerable to health issues. Obesity in kids and teenagers is also on the rise in low-, middle- and high-income countries globally. Its high time to curb the obesity epidemic and join hands together to promote healthy eating among our present generation kids to enable them to grow into healthy adults. For more insights on managing the obesity epidemic and learning to live a healthy lifestyle please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
Exercise and nutrition
Iron deficiency anemia was the leading cause of quality life lost to disability and death in 2015. Teenagers consume a bulk portion of junk foods high in saturated fats, trans fat, free sugars and salt that’s totally harmful for the body. Data too suggests that fewer than 1 in 4 individuals meet the physical activity requirements of exercising for 60 minutes daily.
Smoking starts as early as adolescence due to peer pressure or the excitement to try new things and this develops into a habit gradually. To prevent this, it is necessary to increase tobacco prices, impose higher taxes on tobacco products and ban tobacco advertising. Almost 1 in 10 adolescents aged 13 to 15 years use tobacco which needs immediate intervention.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.