ladder-of-participationThere is no doubt we need to pay attention to the health of teens, individually and collectively. A new report from the World Health Organization, entitled Health of the Worlds’ Adolescents: A Second Chance in the Second Decade, hopes to encourage that the teen voice be heard.

Teenagers face a host of health challenges that will affect them for the rest of their lives. The WHO report lists the top-10 causes of death in adolescence. The list suggests where the world should be investing its public health and health-promotion dollars:

  • Road traffic injuries
  • Suicide
  • Respiratory infections
  • Violence
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowning
  • Meningitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Endocrine, blood and immune disorders

In developed countries adolescent deaths are uncommon. However, teens take risks and make decisions about, for example, smoking, driving and sex that will have a life-long impact on their physical, mental and economic health. Conditions such as obesity and depression will impact teens’ health.

The report states that mental health issues are the main challenge for youth, regardless of where they live. Of the 10 leading causes of illness and disability – depression, road-traffic injuries, anemia, HIV/AIDS, self-harm, back and neck pain, diarrhea, anxiety disorders, asthma and lower respiratory infections – 3 are directly related to mental health. Also, the lack of reproductive rights continues to be an ongoing issue that faces teen girls. There is no simple solution to any of these problems.

To have a good return on any investment, the teenage voice needs to be heard and considered. Health initiatives need to include adolescents.