All In 4 Health: #Allin4health #health4all #minding your wellbeing #healthawareness

By Dr T W Ngwenya Changamire

An adolescent in Sub Saharan Africa is 6 times more likely to die before the age of 24 as compared to an adolescent in Europe. Let this sink in. Our children are dying prematurely.

Adolescence is a phase in life where one is transitioning from being a child to becoming an adult. It is from the ages of 10 to 19. This is the time to impart good health-seeking behaviours because behaviours learnt during this stage will determine their health as adults, Our future generation.

Health promotion in this age group guarantees us a healthy and productive future generation.

Adolescents and youths are generally known to be healthy individuals. This is the reason why most of them do not visit any health service provider.

However, this developmental stage exposes them to certain situations or social problems and behavioural problems that either start during this stage or may become worse during this stage.

If these social problems or behavioural problems are not addressed they become exposed to diseases or illnesses that may continue into adulthood or become chronic conditions.

Adolescents are at a high risk of unintentional injuries.

Conditions that predominantly affect adolescents include; substance use and disorders arising from substance abuse, mental disorders, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, suicide, homicide, motor vehicle accidents, gender-based violence, academic challenges and dropping out from school and nutrition disorders.

Adolescent stage is a transitional period which is also a challenging period. It is a challenging period because they are going through biological changes and they become more aware of the sexual and physical appearance. This may raise a lot of insecurity and low confidence issues.

This is also a stage where they go through a lot of emotions.

 

 

This is also a time where they are expected to start learning about independence. They may also start to experience economic challenges especially those who already live in poverty and there aren’t enough organisations to support them.

The World health organisation report on Adolescents in January 2021 stated that globally over 1.5 million adolescents and young adults aged between 10 and 24 years died in the year 2015 with injuries, violence, self-harm and maternal deaths being the leading cause of deaths. Substance use in adolescence will likely lead to dependence in adulthood.

They went further to mention that half of mental disorders in adulthood are estimated to have started by the age of 14.

This highlights the need to increase mental health screening, to increase sexual and reproductive health services and to conduct health education activities to the adolescents and youth population on conditions currently affecting them and how they can be avoided.

Adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa are worst affected by the lack of health services available. It is estimated that the probability of a 10-year-old dying before the age of 24 in the sub-Saharan region is 6 times higher when compared to Europe. This statistic has to change. But why is this so?

Injuries are the leading cause of morbidity and death in this population. Injuries include road traffic accidents, drowning, violence leading to injuries like gunshot injuries. Bullying and violence in schools and in the community is still common, violence also includes sexual violence which affects a significant number of youths and adolescents.

 

 

Undiagnosed mental conditions often lead to depression and suicide and many youths and adolescents do not get screened for mental disorders.  Poverty, stigma and discrimination, violence, sexual abuse increase the chances of developing mental disorders in this population.

Substance use has become a problem in our communities. Alcohol impairs driving ability and increases chances of injury.

Use of alcohol and substances also increases injuries, violence, irresponsible sexual behaviours. Irresponsible sexual behaviours increase their chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. About 13.6% of people aged between 15 and 19 are heavy episodic drinkers globally. Cannabis is the most widely used drug. Cannabis affects the way you think, feel and act.

Cannabis use increases a persons chance of developing a mental disorder.

It is estimated that 1.7 million adolescents (10 and 19 years) were living with HIV in 2019. 90% of these are living in Africa. Adolescents account for 10% of new adult infections with the majority of infections affecting girls.

Adolescents have poor health-seeking behaviours so it is highly likely that those who are living with HIV/AIDS have poor adherence to treatment and are often lost to follow up.

Poor adherence to treatment may lead to opportunistic infections which at often are life-threatening. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increase chances of contracting HIV.

Other STIs like Human papillomavirus HPV increase your chance of developing cervical cancer in the future. This is why it is important to continue educating adolescents and encouraging safe sex practices and to screen for sexually transmitted infections.

Contraception empowers women and enables them to exercise their reproductive rights. Contraception allows and equips individuals to plan for their family. It gives them the choice to decide when they want to have children, how many children and how to space their family.

Barriers to contraception uptake include lack of knowledge, lack of access to affordable, acceptable and reliable services. Contraception saves lives. We say this because planned pregnancies help to reduce maternal deaths. Globally it is estimated that about 777000 girls below the age of 15 and 12 million girls between the ages of 15-19 years  give birth each year.

 

 

Let us all learn to be compassionate to the adolescent population, to be sensitive to the challenges they are going through and to assist them in identifying reliable health service and social service providers. We also need to encourage them to go in for health screening. If we do not address the social and health needs when they are young they are limited to grow to their fullest potential.

 

Contact All In 4 Health – Dr TW Ngwenya Changamire – for General Medical Consultation, Health Screening, Medical Check-up, Health Education and Promotion. The Glen Marais Shopping Centre, 57 Veld Street, Glen Marais, Kempton park 1619

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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