Adolescent Girls’ Health: Approaches to Ensuring the Future She Deserves

A Special Side Event at the 68th World Health Assembly

Co-sponsored by Brazil, Chile, India, Kenya, Tanzania, the United States of America, Zimbabwe in collaboration with the WHO’s focal point on adolescent health and development in the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Wednesday May 20, 2022; Room VII, 12:15-13:45

The health issues faced by adolescents are central to every major current challenge in global health, HIV/AIDS, road traffic injuries, sexual and reproductive health, non-communicable diseases, interpersonal violence, and mental health.


A second chance in the second decade is how the World Health Organization described our window of opportunity to address the health needs of children during their adolescence. The conclusion that the important and specific needs of adolescents’ health had been too long neglected is echoed in many fora with reports and new research at; UNESCO, the world Bank, UNICEF and UNFPA, Lancet has established a commission to specifically address issues surrounding adolescent health and WHO regional offices are developing regional strategies. Our most recent WHO Executive Board called for accelerated action in developing the framework on Adolescent health. Attention to adolescents is highlighted in the update to Global Strategy on Women, Children and Adolescents Health and acknowledged in discussion on the post 2022 sustainable development goals at the UN General Assembly this fall.

Recent data shows that appropriate health care for adolescent girls is often not available. The lack of services has serious negative repercussions on adolescent girls realizing their rights and becoming healthy productive women and leaders. Boys are part of the solution and also need to have their specific health needs met and addressed.

Global health research shows and is continuing to show that healthy adolescent girls grow into women who are drivers of development, economic growth and stability for their families and communities.

WHO data shows that the leading causes of death among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years globally for girls and boys combined in 2012 were road traffic injuries, HIV/AIDS, self-harm; lower respiratory infections and interpersonal violence. As a global community we have had solid success in reducing maternal deaths and deaths from measles but numbers are showing that deaths due to HIV/AIDS are rising among adolescents. The WHO announced this year that AIDS has become the leading cause of death for adolescents in Africa and the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally. While new infections among adolescents are declining, there are twice as many new infections as AIDS deaths. In 2013, over 80 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in the hardest hit countries occurred in girls. Globally 15 percent of women living with HIV/AIDS are aged 15 to 24, with 80 % living in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Further data show some regional and cause specific mortality data point to further areas of focus. One in every five deaths among adolescents in high-income countries is due to road traffic injuries. One in every six deaths among adolescent girls in the South-East Asia regions is due to suicide. Pregnancy and childbirth among adolescent girls has declined and this decline is particularly noticeable in the regions where maternal mortality rates are highest. The South East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean and African regions have seen declines of 57%, 50%, and 37%, respectively. Despite these improvements, maternal mortality ranks second among causes of death of 15–19-yearold girls globally, exceeded only by suicide. Behavioral and morbidity data allow assessment of the many non-fatal diseases and conditions that develop during adolescence, which not only have implications for service provision today but often have repercussions in adulthood, particularly in the area of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s) mainly cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma), and diabetes. Focusing on the prevention of tobacco and alcohol use and the promotion of physical activity and healthy diet among adolescents is an essential component of the adolescent health agenda.


This side event aims at building momentum and stimulating dialogue amongst all of us and proposes to go beyond often polarizing politics to offer examples of interventions that are effectively addressing the specific health needs of adolescent girls.