India to host global conference on adolescent health

October 24, 2017

New Delhi: The biggest global event in adolescent health, ‘The World Congress on Adolescent Health’, is coming to India for the first time. Held once in every four years, the International Association for Adolescent Health’s eleventh World Congress on Adolescent Health, ‘Investing in Adolescent Health – the Future is Now’ will be held in New Delhi, from 27-29 October 2017.

The world is home to 1.2 billion adolescents, and India has the largest population of adolescents in the world – 253 million with every fifth adolescent in the world being an Indian and every second adolescent being an Asian.

Professor Susan Sawyer, President, International Association for Adolescent Health, said India was chosen as the venue for the conference as it had the largest number of adolescents in the world. “Policies in India are changing in favour of adolescents. When we started the IAAH in Australia 30 years ago as a resource to help build capacities in the field of adolescent health, we had people only from high income countries but now there is participation from across the world since 90 per cent of the adolescents are in middle and low income countries.’’

Over 1,000 delegates from 65 countries across the world will share their experiences and learnings during the conference.

The World Congress seeks to cover topical themes through discussions in sessions such as ‘Global adolescent health: Opportunities and challenges’, ‘Programming for adolescent health in India: RKSK and beyond’, ‘Toward a gendered approach to adolescent health’, ‘Mental health and adolescents’, ‘Early Adolescent Health and Development in Low and Middle-Income Countries’, ‘Social Media, Sexting, Addiction, Oh My! Adolescent Health in the Digital Age’, and other such issues.

The conference will also host debates on topics including the need for parents’ consent in their child's clinical care or participation in health research; the role of brain imaging in adolescent care and health promotion; and on whether to promote condoms or contraceptives among adolescents.

Dr Sunil Mehra, Executive Director, MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child, said: “It is an appropriate time to choose India as the venue for the conference since the country is faced with challenges such as early marriage, early pregnancies, malnutrition and obesity and violence.’’

Adolescence is a period which encapsulates tremendous change in relation to critical life events such as transitions from education to employment, and formation of families and parenting. Adolescence is also the period in which individuals experience the greatest change in health and health-related behaviours across their lifetime. Well recognized as a time of risk for health, increasingly adolescence is now recognized as a period of opportunity for health, in which individuals gain the assets and resources to sustain health across the life-course.

The mortality of adolescents globally stands at a staggering 1.5 million deaths per year. Unintended injuries such as road traffic accidents and drowning are the leading causes of death among adolescents, together with self-harm, interpersonal violence, communicable diseases and teenage pregnancy. On the other hand, tobacco, alcohol and other substance use contribute to health concerns among adolescents (e.g. injuries) and are associated with unemployment, accidents, depression and suicide during adolescence.

Yet, rather than being a passing phase, these behaviours and states risk reverberating across the life-course, contributing to the future burden of disease in adults and to that of the next generation.

David Ross, World Health Organisation said, “It is indeed heartening to know that the world has started appreciating the issues of the adolescents such as education, behaviour change, smoking, drinking, and mental health which have roots in adolescence but impact the later life. The morality rates among neonates and child mortality has come down but adolescent mortality rates are showing an increasing though most of these are preventable causes such as self-harm and injuries.’’

Sushma Dureja, Deputy Commissioner (Adolescent Health), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said: “We (government) have a responsibility towards the adolescents and we cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without focusing on adolescent health for a life-cycle approach to health.’

Dr Chandra-Mouli, WHO, said: “The world is looking up to India’s National Adolescent Health Programme (Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram) after its win over polio.’’

The World Congress is being organised under the supportive leadership of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child (MAMTA) is the lead organisation that is hosting the World Congress with a consortium of partners including Pathfinder International, Population Foundation of India (PFI), Population Services International (PSI), and The YP Foundation.

The World Congress also has scientific support from Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP), Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI).