Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Adolescent Well-Being in Focus

Image taken from HBSC International Study 2011

Last week, Wikichild launched its first online discussion at Health Behavior in School-Aged Children’s 30thAnniversary event in St. Andrews, Scotland. The event, which spread over three days, featured a diverse range of speakers including participants from UNICEF, the OECD and Johns Hopkins University, who each in turn offered their insight into the field of child well-being.

The Wikichild presentation and following discussion were a great success with members of the audience showing enthusiasm for the online consultation platform. At Wikichild, Wikiprogress and Wikigender, it is our hope that these online discussions will allow researchers and policy makers to interact with members of the public and thus garner a more comprehensive perspective on important topics such as child well-being.

An interesting point that was raised during our presentation was that the online discussion references children without specifying what we mean by the word. Do we mean someone younger than 18 years or young people between 10 and 19 years? The consultation is intended to encapsulate opinions on the well-being of very young children and adolescents, however, the audience member who raised the issue, stipulated that the well-being of each group must be measured separately, both now, and in the future.

According to a recent Lancet paper on adolescent health, the health of young people between the age of 10-24 has improved far less than that of younger children over the past 50 years. This is due in part to the inadequate identification by researches and policy makers of adolescents as an individual group. It seems that the term young person not only has a number of different meanings but a range of definitions, which often overlap: a ‘child’ is defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a person younger than 18 years, ‘adolescence’ is categorized by the World Health 0rganization as the period between 10 and 19 years, the UN defines ‘youth’ as people aged between 15 and 24 years and so on (‘Adolescence: a foundation for future health’ – The Lancet). As a  result, governing bodies have struggled to focus investments to address the needs of adolescents.   

‘Building a worldwide agenda for adolescent health needs an escalation in the visibility of young people and an understanding of challenges to their health and development.’ Seizing the opportunities of adolescent health – The Lancet
While child well-being in itself is a fairly new topic of study, adolescent health is a much younger discipline by comparison. Decades of clinical experience and research has generated noticeable improvements in the growth and the integration of child public health, and members of the Lancet team argue that the same process must be applied to the field of adolescent well-being. 

The present generation of young people is the largest in history – with a population of 1.8 million, the majority of which live in low-income countries. In Africa for example, Young people aged between 15 and 25 represent more than 60 per cent of the continent’s total population and account for 45 per cent of the total labour force. Adolescents face notably different challenges from previous generations including rising poverty, inadequate education and mass unemployment and as a result there are increasing calls by experts for adolescent well-being to be high on the agenda for future development frameworks such as Post-2015.

To have your say on what you believe are the most important domains of well-being for young people, and how these areas should be measured, leave a comment on our discussion page. The conversation has already had some excellent input and we want to hear your opinion. Make your voice heard!

Robbie Lawrence
Wikichild Coordinator 

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