• Youth

Improving adolescent health in the Caribbean

7 Nov 2019

Trinidad and Tobago, 6 November 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – While young people (aged 10-24) account for a quarter of the population of the Caribbean, they continue to experience disproportionate barriers when it comes to accessing health information and quality services that respond to their needs.

This issue was top of the agenda at the First Caribbean Congress on Adolescent and Youth Health, that took place last October in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, to promote the health and well-being of adolescents and youth in the Caribbean. During the event, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa F. Etienne, highlighted a series of actions that can be taken to address the needs of this demographic and ensure they live happy, healthy and prosperous lives. 

Dr. Etienne at Youth meeting
Dr. Etienne at Youth meeting

As well as the barriers ensuring access to quality health services for youth, a number of other disparities exist that also have a negative impact on health outcomes for young people. These include the disproportionate burden of poverty, underemployment and unemployment, as well as low educational outcomes, among other factors. 

In the Caribbean, these factors contribute to more than 2000 preventable deaths among young people each year. For Dr. Etienne, while there is still a long road ahead to achieving equity and universality in adolescent health, young people remain the key drivers of change and universal health and health for all must include adolescents and young people. 

During the congress, a variety of risk factors were discussed, including early alcoholism; frequent consumption of fast food and sugary drinks; obesity; adolescent pregnancy; and lack of access to education, which is one of the key determinants of adolescent and youth health. 

Youth advocates Dennis Glasgow from Guyana and Christina Williams from Jamaica participate in panel discussions at the Congress
Youth advocates Dennis Glasgow from Guyana and Christina Williams from Jamaica participate in panel discussions at the Congress

In order to address these issues and improve adolescent health outcomes, Dr. Etienne proposed the following recommendations:

  • Transformative political leadership – to build the capacity of youth to make informed, positive life choices
  • Putting evidence into practice – Implement what we know works and ensure monitoring and evaluation
  • Multisectoral action
  • Innovation – Harnessing the power of information technology for youth wellbeing
  • Engaging young people. “Nothing about us without us”. Young people must be active participants in shaping prosperous societies.

The health of adolescents and youths in the Americas

A recent PAHO report, “The health of adolescents and youth in the Americas” presents the latest available data on this issue from across the Region. The report provides an analysis on the current situation on the health of youth and adolescents, summarizes the status of the implementation of PAHO’s Regional Strategy and Plan of Action; and outlines recommendations on how stakeholders can act to improve the health and well-being of youth in the Region. 


— The Health of Adolescents and Youth in the Americas
— PAHO Plan of Action for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health  
— Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health
— Caribbean Congress on Adolescent and Youth Health Facebook page