Adolescents: Health Risks and How to Prevent Them
One of the important areas in pediatrics is adolescent medicine - a branch of medicine that studies the processes of puberty, maturation, growth, and development of the adolescent’s body and specific diseases characteristic of the adolescent period of life. Adolescent medicine aims to protect and strengthen health, the harmonious development of adolescents’ personalities for the subsequent optimal implementation of their strengths and capabilities in the creative activity of society.
The main tasks of adolescent medicine:
- the direction of society to create conditions for the implementation of an individual genetically determined program for the development of a teenager,
- development of the theory of health and the puberty of a teenager, taking into account both biological and social factors,
- search for methods for analyzing the health of an individual and analyzing the health of the adolescent population,
- an integrated approach to the protection of somatic, mental, and reproductive health,
- ensuring harmonious puberty maturation,
- medical support in the system of forming a full-fledged member of society, taking into account the requirements of productive and defense potential,
- education and consolidation of medical and hygienic skills of a healthy lifestyle (preventive focus),
- the adolescent’s awareness of personal responsibility for their health,
- training and advanced training of medical specialists involved in the protection of adolescent health,
- development and improvement of forms of medical care for adolescents and students, ensuring the optimal implementation of the tasks set,
- development of a methodology for adolescent medicine.
The content of medical care for adolescents is determined by two main components of adolescence: the presence of puberty and psychosocial maturation.
Every year more and more adolescents are putting their health at risk. Regarding the question of "who is at greatest risk of dying among adolescents? ", official medical WHO data indicate that at the time of 2019, there were more than 1.5 million deaths of adolescents and young people aged 10-24 years, that is, almost 5, 000 deaths daily. Adolescents in the younger age group (10-14 years old) are at the lowest risk of death among all age groups.
Since medicine does not stand still but develops every day, scientists have identified the main adolescents’ health problems. This list includes:
- Mental health
- Use of alcohol and drugs
- Tobacco use
- HIV / AIDS
- Other infectious diseases
- Premature pregnancy and childbirth
- Nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies
- Malnutrition and obesity
- Physical activity
- Adolescents rights
This situation called for urgent action to develop a joint strategy for the health of children and adolescents in the European Region. The strategy was formulated by WHO with the support of the European professional pediatric communities including two areas: measures to improve health and the training of doctors involved in the provision of health care for children and adolescents.
To solve the above issues, WHO encourages adolescents, their parents, and even countries to observe the following measures:
- To avoid injury from road traffic accidents, there is a need to strengthen the laws regarding safe road traffic, as well as the measures to comply with these rules.
- Effective approaches to violence prevention need to include strategies that teach parents how to raise and develop their children at an early age. It is also necessary to introduce programs to prevent bullying in school and to develop the life and social skills of children, as well as community-based approaches to limit access to alcohol and firearms.
- To improve adolescent mental health, WHO recommends that parents develop and support psychosocial skills in children and adolescents in all situations. When identifying mental health problems in adolescents, it is vital to notice the problem in time and contact a specialist for help.
- Prevention of alcohol and drug use among adolescents is also one of the essential areas of health care. WHO has established basic strategies to combat this problem, such as: setting a minimum age for buying and consuming alcohol, and prohibiting the marketing and advertising of alcoholic beverages to children.
- Measures such as banning the sale of tobacco products to underage adolescents and increasing the price of tobacco products, banning tobacco advertising, and creating a smoke-free environment will help adolescents avoid tobacco dependence.
- HIV and AIDS are also common issues among adolescents. Parents need to start talking to their children about this as early as possible, as adolescents need to know how to protect themselves from these infections and must be able to do so.
- Adolescents should have the right to comprehensive sex education to prevent premature pregnancy and childbirth. There is also a need to improve access to information and contraception services at the country level. Girls who become pregnant early should have access to antenatal care and safe abortions.
- Healthy eating, namely the formation of healthy eating habits, is laid down in adolescence. It is necessary for parents to correctly explain to adolescents why this is necessary and to interest them. National governments need to restrict marketing products that encourage young people to eat unhealthy diets. Physical activity is also the key to a healthy lifestyle. To improve physical activity, countries, society, and local communities must create a safe and supportive environment and opportunities for all adolescents to engage in physical activity.
Approaching childhood and adolescence from a life-cycle perspective recognizes the intergenerational link that occurs when young people become parents themselves. While the health sector has a critical role to play in health promotion, prevention, and care, the education, social and financial sectors, and many others, have a major impact on the underlying factors of health. Improving and maintaining the health of children and adolescents requires the efforts of many sectors, with the leading and coordinating role of the health sector.
The health and social well-being of adolescents is of particular significance since they are the closest economic and political potential of society. At the same time, the European demographic trend is a constant decrease in the number of children and adolescents and an increase in the population of adults. This can worsen the economic situation of the countries of the European region. In such a situation, the health of every teenager deserves close attention.