International Adolescent Health Week, celebrated on the 20 -26th of March yearly, is an opportunity for young people, parents, care givers, health care providers, teachers, advocates and communities to come together and celebrate young people with the goal of working collectively towards improving the health and well-being of the over 1 billion adolescents across the globe. The international theme for year 2022 is titled “Transitions” from childhood to adulthood, physically and mentally from a pre-pandemic life into a life shaped by a pandemic from dependence to independence. In Nigeria, the celebration for the year is titled, transition: Building a case for the visibility of Adolescents in Nigeria. Adolescents are known as teenagers or young adults between the age of ten to nineteen (10 – 19). The definition of adolescence varies across countries and cultures, but generally begins with the biological changes of puberty and ends with the adoption of adult social roles and responsibilities. It is a significant period of changes; involving physical, emotional, and social etc, presenting new health risks as well as unique opportunities for health promotion. Adolescent health is the transition from child health to health in adulthood.
The Mission of International Adolescent Health Week is to inspire adolescents and their communities to advocate for successful transition into adulthood and promote a better healthy living for them. Although adolescence is generally seen as the healthiest time in a person’s life, it is however noted presently that, most adolescents engage in risky lifestyles and this is observed globally. For instance, illegal drug use constitutes a major concern in most adolescents. These activities have become the order of the day among adolescents, and have greatly influenced and played critical roles in their education, health, relationships and general well being.
The complications of drug abuse play out in the negative effects on normal hormone functions, other biological
changes during puberty, brain development and in decisions making. These negative effects also lead to attitude change like bad behaviours, pleasure-seeking (sex) , increased risk taking adventures etc.
The situation is getting worse daily especially in our home country Nigeria, where our young ones engage in various forms of cyber crimes, commonly referred to as “yahoo yahoo” in Nigeria, diabolic ritual activities and various forms of acultic activities etc. The need to advocate for more healthy living among adolescents cannot be over emphasized. Since many behaviours that start in this period have long-term health implications, there’s need to advocate for more healthy living among our adolescents and to educate them on these transitional stages to ensure a better future. Over one-quarter of Nigerian adolescents can be easily influenced. Most of them are obviously idle, resulting from massive school dropout- reasons ranging from financial constraints and otherwise.
There’s need to inculcate health seeking behaviours in adolescents early in life, spending quality times on them. Empowering them with various skills to keep them busy is very important; so also education on healthy behaviour, dealings, etc if they are to live a healthy and fulfilled life in future.
Health care providers, parents, teachers, advocates and communities still have so much to do to help our youth promote healthy living outcomes and become ambassadors for change whereever they find themselves. Despite its importance and prominence, adolescent health has over time received limited attention, and progress has been slow. Who should be blamed for this?
As our theme for this year in Nigeria emphasizes on building visibility, it is time for us to bring to limelight the need for improved healthy behaviour among Nigerian adolescents. Greater understanding of and investment in adolescence will deliver significant future returns in individual well-being and in national growth and development.
However, we appreciate the fact that the adolescents and young people health documentation in Rivers State, Nigeria after series of reviews and validation of a working document for proper domestication of policies and programs in which Healthy Life Development Initiative and other dedicated stakeholders were greatly involved was a huge success.
We call on both international organizations and our own country for the already debated and adopted policies as stated in various bills; documents etc with proper monitoring and documentation to prove the work done for better future representation of our adolescent. It is time here in Nigeria to start giving our adolescents a chance to take the centre stage, take up responsibilities and be a part of the global change we desire or want to see. Small actions by many adolescents working together can create great change but we are calling also on parents as care givers, teachers etc because they are the foundation of every child building. As an organisation (Healthy Life Development Initiative), we will continue to work towards healthy growth of our adolescents since their health is our major concerns. Thank you.
Signed by: Dr. Mfon Utin (CEO of Healthy Life Development Initiative)