Addressing the Critical Gap in the Health Care for Adolescent Girls

Women’s health tends to fall into two predominant categories when it comes to the big global health and development organizations: child health, and maternal health. There is a critical gap in the health care of young adolescent girls.

This is part of a series of stories on topics that are underreported in global health and development.

Women’s health tends to fall into two predominant categories when it comes to the big global health and development organizations: child health, and maternal health. But women’s health is much broader than taking care of young girls, and then picking up again once those young girls have become mothers. There is a critical gap in the health care of young adolescent girls.

“Yes, women and children are important. But the group that has been neglected the most are youth, adolescents,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, said to a small handful of journalists during United Nations Week.

“We continue to see child marriage in so many countries,” Chan said, bringing up the recent example of an eight-year-old girl in Yemen who was forced to marry a 40-year-old man and died on their wedding night of internal injuries and bleeding. Indeed, child marriage and early childbearing are factors in the depressed status of adolescent women in counties like India, Pakistan, and Nigeria, UN experts say.

Roughly 16 million adolescent girls become mothers annually, according to the World Health Organization, with most of those happening in the world’s poorest countries. In the poorest countries, complications from adolescent pregnancy and birth is one of the top causes of death for girls aged 15 to 19 years, according to the WHO. Prioritizing equality and well-being for girls and women means many things, from ensuring access to education to awareness and provision of reproductive health care including access to contraceptives for girls before they become mothers, so that they can control their own family planning.

As the Girl Effect movement worldwide has shown, empowering girls is a huge driver of economic growth and poverty reduction. Health education is a pivotal part of that process. And the inverse is also true: if a girl is denied an education and becomes a mother when she is still an adolescent, data suggests that a generations-old cycle of poverty and disempowerment will continue.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less