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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Sep 27, 2023

Investing in our future: Adolescent well-being

We cannot expect a better tomorrow if we are not investing enough in the next generation of leaders and citizens of this earth — the adolescents and young people of today.

One-fifth of the global population, or 1.8 billion are adolescents and youth, aged 10-24 years, whose development and well-being are now influenced by a number of factors, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, rapid digitalization, highly evolving cyberspace, and the deepening climate crisis.

These events will shape the future that they will live in, but what makes it more challenging is that they need to navigate this transforming environment now while experiencing biological, mental and emotional changes, and also trying to balance priorities with regard to relationships, interests and advocacies, and education and/or early careers.

The question is, are we giving our adolescent population the kind of support they need? Are we investing enough on their well-being?

A necessary investment

At the Clinton Global Initiative, I was reunited with my former boss at the United Nations and Development Programme (UNDP), former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who stressed in her speech that our commitment to investing in adolescent well-being is not just an option, but a necessity.

Clark currently serves as the chairperson of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH). It is the world’s largest alliance for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being.

The PMNCH, harnessing its partnership with more than 1,450 institutions and organizations from 192 countries, has been working across sectors and engaging with the voices and ideas of young people.

For its major initiative this year, the group is gathering the voices of over one million adolescents and young people, while also mobilizing financial and political support for adolescent health and well-being through the “1.8 Billion Young People for Change Campaign.”

10-fold return

Governments must prioritize plans and strategies and allocate sufficient funds for adolescent health and well-being, including on physical and mental health. We must also guarantee their safety not only in the actual environment but also in cyberspace. We need to empower them and ensure that they have a voice in society, and that these voices are not only heard but also listened to.

The development and well-being of this group of citizens is vital to the world’s future.

We need to invest more on our adolescents and young people so that we can address the risks they face. According to studies, two-thirds of premature deaths in adults are associated with childhood or adolescent conditions. Moreover, at least 2,000 adolescents die every day, mainly for preventable   causes.

But for every dollar we invest in adolescent health, the estimated health, social and economic return is 10-fold.

Certainly, we must all commit to making this worthy investment toward a better future for all of us.

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