The achievements since the 1989 World Health Assembly Resolution on the health of adolescents underpin this report. It synthesizes the progress made and the many lessons learned about rectifying the misconceptions about adolescent health, developing consensus on core indicators, better analysing the available data, strengthening the evidence base for effective interventions across a range of health problems, identifying strategic entry points for focusing on adolescent health and turning this knowledge into action.
We now have a much better understanding of health problems and health-related behaviours during adolescence, the developmental changes taking place in the adolescent years, and their implications for policies and programmes. We have learned a great deal about what works and what does not. Lack of evidence is no longer an excuse for inertia.
Increasing numbers of countries are making concerted efforts to rectify past neglect of adolescent health and we have learned much from their experiences. We know the importance of goals and targets; of ensuring that interventions are directed to those most in need; of being clear about what is different about adolescents and what needs to be done differently. We know, as well, that being concerned and knowing what needs to be done is a start, but, to have optimal impact, interventions must be well targeted and taken to scale, with quality that is monitored.
We also know that adolescents should be seen in the context of the age periods that surround them and in the context of overall national public health priorities. There are few public health problems of general importance that do not affect adolescents. In fact, frequently adolescents are at the centre of these problems and their solution.
Health sector responses to improve and maintain the health of adolescents need to be seen within the context of national health systems and infrastructures. It is usually not a matter of setting up separate or parallel services for adolescents. Rather, what matters most is making sure that the specific needs and capacities of adolescents are taken into consideration when policies and programmes are developed and that resources are allocated so that policy intentions can be transformed into programme action with and for adolescents. This is their right.