Dr. Etienne began her address by stating how the Congress presented an excellent opportunity for the youth to share their views about governance and the challenges they faced to achieve happy, healthy, and prosperous lives. She also thought it facilitated mutual learning for the breakdown of cultural, generational and social stereotypes.
She noted that unlike the 2000-2015 Plan, the 2016-2030 Global Strategy included adolescents in its mandate, thereby acknowledging the unique health challenges facing young people as well as the importance of their role as key drivers of change for the future.
Dr. Etienne suggested that regional commitment to universal health coverage should be a source of inspiration. She noted that PAHO member states had adopted the Sustainable Health Agenda for the America’s 2018-2030. The Agenda reaffirms the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, Pan American solidarity, equity in health, universality, and social inclusion, as fundamental principles and values for achieving health for all.
Notably too was the adoption of The Regional Plan of Action for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2018-2030, which sought to protect gains achieved to date and close the gaps in universal access to health for all women, children and adolescents in the Americas.
Dr. Etienne acknowledged there was still a long road ahead to achieving equity and universality in adolescent health. Data revealed more than 2000 preventable deaths annually among young people in this sub-region. The audience was informed of the prevalence of risk factors which included:
- early alcoholism;
- frequent consumption of fast food and sugary drinks
- adolescent pregnancy
- lack of access to education, which evidence suggests, is one of the key determinants of adolescent and youth health
Dr. Etienne proposed the following recommendations in order to get better results in adolescent health
- Transformative political leadership at the highest levels – Build capacity of the youth to make informed and positive life choices
- Accelerate putting evidence into practice; monitor and evaluate – We know what works. Put it into action immediately
- Multisectoral action – This is critical
- Innovation – Understand the increasing role of information technology in the lives of youth, the dynamics, and use them for the wellbeing of young
- Engage young people : “Nothing about us without us”. The importance of the participation of young people in shaping prosperous societies and determining their own destiny has long been recognized globally and in the Region and is a cross cutting theme in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals
Dr. Etienne suggested there must be a recognition and understanding of the diversity of health needs amongst adolescents and youth and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. Additionally, because health is also a right for adolescents and young people, there is a need to invest in the right policies and programs so that they can realize their full potential and full participation in society.
Moving forward, to achieve universal health for all, with due attention to young people, Dr. Etienne detailed the following recommendations, in areas which she believed needed attention:
- Elimination of social, cultural, geographic, financial and institutional barriers to access health.
- Transformation of health systems, firmly based on the PHC approach , with inclusive and meaningful participation from young people.
- True commitment to increasing and improving investments in health.