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Health and disability

Expert urges States to invest in the health and resilience of adolescents

21 June 2016

Adolescent health

A stronger focus on adolescents and their rights to health is urgently needed, as the current system is riddled with inconsistencies, failures and dangers to teens, a United Nations expert stated.

“The second decade of life is associated with exposure to increasing risks to the right to health, including violence, abuse, sexual or economic exploitation, trafficking, harmful traditional practices, […] substance use and dependence” Dainius Pūras, UN Special Rapporteur on  the right to health said.

"Nearly all these risks are preventable by investing in the health and resilience of adolescents".

Pūras’ made his remarks as he presented his report to the Human Rights Council during its 32nd session.

The report on adolescent right to health focuses on mental health, the rights of teens to access sexual and reproductive health, and substance use and drug control. It looks at how these areas impact emerging teen autonomy and their right to protection.

Supporting adolescents in the enjoyment of their rights would have a profound impact on their individual future development, Pūras said. One-size-fits-all policies designed for children or youth often fail to address the needs of adolescents, he said.

“It is crucial to value adolescents’ strengths and to engage with them as partners in informing and shaping the measures needed to realize their right to health and their optimum development,” Pūras said.

Pūras advocated for sexual and reproductive health information to be included in school curricula and urged States to “decriminalize abortion, in accordance with international human rights norms”.  Access to abortion services should be available at least in cases “when the life of the mother is at risk, when the mother is the victim of rape or incest, and if there is severe fatal fetal impairment,” he said.

With regard to mental health, the report stated Governments should ensure  that psychological interventions are adjusted to adolescents’ needs and accessible.

Pūras also called for the closure of drug detention centers for adolescents, and to seek alternative to repressive drug control policies.

“States should provide prevention; harm reduction and dependence treatment service,” he said
Pūras said it was important for States to fulfill their obligations to help empower adolescents and guarantee their human rights.

“The costs of failing adolescents are simply too high,” he said.

21 June 2016