Kingston, Jamaica, September 22, 2023 (PAHO/WHO) - In recognition of the pivotal role that young people play in shaping the future, a group of Jamaican adolescents gathered in Kingston to discuss issues concerning their health and mental wellbeing at the “Empowering Adolescents to Lead Change using Health Data: Data-to-Action Workshop” held from September 19-21, 2023.
The three-day data-to-action workshop builds upon the insights gleaned from baseline surveys conducted by the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) between January and May 2023 as part of the Global School Health Survey and the Global School Health Policies and Practices Survey.
The surveys involved over 3000 students and 20 schools from St. Catherine parish and generated vital health information on which to plan, implement and subsequently evaluate a package of interventions to improve health outcomes for adolescents.
During the workshop, a diverse group of participants, including students, teachers, parents, community leaders, and health professionals, actively engaged in extensive discussions regarding the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco by adolescents, as well as issues related to their dietary behaviors, mental health, physical activity, violence, injuries, and protective factors. Potential interventions generated from these discussions will play a pivotal role in identifying adolescent health needs and facilitating the subsequent implementation of these interventions to address priority areas effectively.
Ian Stein, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Representative, emphasized the pressing concern of childhood obesity during the workshop. He called for increased investment in addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), noting, “Managing NCDs begins with our children. We need to instill positive behavior change early because children often carry the practices they learn in childhood into adulthood."
Throughout the sessions, the students spoke passionately about the critical challenges they face and called on adults in various capacities to engage in more inclusive discussions, particularly on issues that directly impact their quality of life.
The workshop was facilitated and supported by a team comprising members from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the NCDA, PAHO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the University of Bern (Switzerland), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Jamaica joins Ghana, India, and Morocco as one of the few countries where the project is being implemented.
At the conclusion of the workshop, participants developed an action plan to be implemented by the intervention schools over the next two years. Oversight during the implementation phase will be carried out by the NCDA, with support from the PAHO Country Office.