How much progress has the world made on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights over the past 20 years? According to a special supplement to the Journal of Adolescent Health—released online today—progress has been “limited and patchy” since governments made a series of commitments at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994.
In the supplement, which was fostered by the World Health Organization and the International Women’s Health Coalition, experts review the body of evidence on effective programs for adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The authors note that promising programs for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights must be implemented on a large, national scale. Large-scale, sustainable programs can facilitate collaboration across sectors for greater impact.
The supplement defines five complementary and intersecting areas for intervention: scaling up comprehensive sexuality education programs that address gender and human rights; increasing access to effective, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services; preventing intimate partner violence and sexual violence; increasing youth participation in sexual and reproductive health policymaking; and addressing the key social, cultural, economic, and political factors that impact young people’s ability to lead healthy lives.
The authors also state that more research is needed to discover the best approaches for improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights, in addition to rigorous evaluation of existing projects and programs. They stress that adolescents – particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized – must be reached earlier in their lives. However, as the authors noted at a panel discussion, gaps in research must not be used as an excuse not to scale up programs. “We know enough to act,” said IWHC President Françoise Girard.
The five articles in the special supplement were commissioned for an Expert Group Meeting convened by IWHC and the WHO in New York in February 2013.
The special supplement is available online for free.