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Investing in adolescent health ‘beginning of a long road’ to youth empowerment

36 countries participate in regional conference in Amman

By Maria Weldali - Dec 14,2019 - Last updated at Dec 14,2019

The 3rd Regional Adolescent Health Conference aims to strengthen adolescent health systems through the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (Photo courtesy of Adolescent Health Conference website)

AMMAN — With the aim of strengthening adolescent health systems through the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, the 3rd Regional Adolescent Health Conference, organised by the Royal Health Awareness Society (RHAS) in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH), was launched on Thursday in Amman.

The opening ceremony touched on enhancing policies in youth services and exchanging expertise on all aspects of adolescent health in order to build a healthy environment and achieve long-term positive impact, by drawing attention to this segment of society.

The conference’s theme, “Investing in Healthier Generations”, is “the beginning of a long road ahead towards developing strategies and schemes to equip young people with necessary knowledge and due attention, particularly given that their numbers continue to grow", Minister of Health Saad Jaber said during the opening ceremony.

Barbara Shenstone, regional director of the International Development Research Centre, noted at the ceremony that more than 78 million people worldwide are under the age of 19, representing one-fifth of the global population.

Youth are a “great treasure”, as the ones tasked with carrying societies forward, she said, adding: “They are young, strong and talented, but as this conference shows, they can have particular vulnerabilities in keeping up with our times.”

Young people today face the challenges that come with a modern world that is crowded, polluted, often violent and in constant evolution and change, Shenstone said.

“For some, the future is uncertain. Adolescents — in particular, girls — may face the risks of early marriage and sexual and gender-based violence, in addition to social norms and practices that can cause obstructions of identity,” she added.

Deputy Regional Director of Arab States at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Frederika Meijer also highlighted that adolescence is a “critical period” in human development, when physical, emotional, social and psychological changes take place.

“Investing in adolescents pays off in upcoming generations, and they should take part in development agenda as potential change makers,” she said during the ceremony.

The Ministry of Health gives “great attention” to young people aged 10 to 19 through its School Health Directorates, according to Jaber, who noted that school health programmes take a “prominent place” within the ministry’s strategic plan for 2018-2022.

Comprehensive medical examinations have been provided to approximately 99 per cent of youth, with the aim of helping them establish healthy lifestyles, the minister said.

The conference is witnessing the participation of 36 countries, and the ceremony saw the attendance of Health Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Mai Alkaila, RHAS Director General Hanin Odeh, representatives from international institutions and the private sector and academic experts from Jordanian and Arab universities.

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