Why media, health workers must prioritise adolescent health – Ministry

THE Federal Ministry of Health has urged health workers and media practitioners to support adolescents by providing education and information on issues that could help them improve their health.

The ministry made the appeal at a two-day training facilitated by the Gender, Adolescent/School Health and Elderly Care (GASHE) unit of the ministry, in collaboration with the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN) in Abuja between Monday, November 20, and Tuesday, November 21.

Adolescence is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, from ages 10 to 19. It is a unique stage of human development and an important time for setting good health and other foundations for oneself.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2021, the mortality rates for 10 to 24-year-olds were highest in sub-Saharan Africa, six times higher than in North America and Europe.

In his opening remark at the training, the Director and Head of Gender, Adolescent/School Health, and Elderly Care (GASHE), John Ovuoraye, a doctor, said adolescents are at a unique stage in life characterized by various changes—physical, emotional, cognitive, and psycho-social.

“Given the ease of connection to the wider society through media, factors within the larger global society also influence adolescent development. Factors in these different contexts could either predispose the adolescent to engage in risky or protective behaviours which influence their current and future health and the health of the children they have,” he said.

He also highlighted that adolescents needing particular attention are predominantly from lower socio-economic backgrounds, with lower levels of education, residing in rural or hard-to-reach urban slums, living on the streets, in conflict zones, or encompassing married adolescents and those with disabilities.

Speaking with The ICIR after the training, Ovuoraye emphasized the importance of the ministry’s partnership with the media, noting that there were developments, policies, and health services that journalists could assist in disseminating to Nigerians.

“We felt that people needed to know about implementations going on, to know the services available for adolescents who need to know the government position when it comes to adolescent health issues in the country and, therefore, the reason we need to take the media along.”



    On her part, the African Network of Adolescent and Young Persons Development (ANAYD), Sekinat Bello,said the idea behind the training was to inform, sensitise and train journalists on how best they could help in improving the reporting around adolescents and young persons health and development.

    She added that the adolescent stage is a very sensitive demography that falls in the teenage age range and also transits into adulthood, adding that many issues are coming up and need to be addressed.

    “They (adolescents) are of different diversities – we have people living with HIV,  we have people injecting drugs, we have people with disabilities, people in the IDPs, people in the streets, and people in vulnerable and rural communities.  So If you want to address some of their issues or talk about their development, you must identify this diversity and know how best to report and send information because you cannot just generalise them.”

    Bello, therefore, appealed to the government, health workers, and the media to work together and improve the services rendered to adolescents.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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