Sunday, 27 April 2008

Youths are the solutions to the problems of this generation----Prof Amy Tsui

In a brief interview at the pre-conference training for journalists at the ongoing 'Youth deliver the future Conference' in Abuja, Nigeria Professor Amy Tsui, of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA reiterates the importance of assuring the health of youths in this dispensation

Question: The Youth deliver the future conference starts today, with the theme ‘Investing in young people’s health and development’. Why is the focus on youths?
Today there are more adolescents than at any time in history. It is estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa, half of the population is under the age of 15, and less than 5% is over 60. There are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 10 to 19. This group makes up about 20% of the global population (WHO, 2002) so youths are the solution to the problems of this generation. Important lifetime consequences come about from the things that this group of people do and there are demographic dividends to be accrued from the percentage of the burden placed on this group. It is for this reason that issues concerning their health is of paramount importance. This conference seeks to share research results on studies on youths from across the globe and present these results such that policy makers would be presented with ideas and best practices, so that at the end of the conference, it would hopefully bring a paradigm shift in policy making and implementation, and monitoring for best practices.

Question: Why was the conference venue chosen to be in Africa?
The youth conference is one in the series of biannual conferences organized by the John Hopkins School. We have had a conference on Visco Vaginal Fistulae (VVF) and one on integrating HIV into reproductive health policies. This is the third one and is being hosted in Africa because of the percentage of young people in the continent, and because in some areas of health such as mental and sexual health, adolescents suffer disproportionately. The consequences of poor health at this age also stretch into the future, affecting their prospects and those of their children. In addition, health-related behaviors, such as smoking, eating habits, sexual behaviors, and help-seeking behaviors developed during adolescence often endure into later life.

Question: How can African countries take advantage of the opportunities given by the expected Demographic dividend?
African countries should try harder to ensure the judicious use of public resources to cater for the health of the people, especially youths and young people. Every country has competing needs but if adequate resources are put in place some of the problems encountered now due to the demography of the nation would be alleviated. Besides, increasing female enrollments and labour force participation, introducing changes in technology and institutions to raise agricultural productivity and increasing land conservation, coupled with developing and implementing a comprehensive population policy that includes more effective family planning would ensure that upcoming African economies reap the demographic dividend of this generation.

By Nnenna Ike

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