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Alexandra Hervish is an international education specialist with nearly 10 years of experience in capacity building, training and youth development. She has adapted and delivered policy communications workshops for youth and adults in both international and domestic settings. In addition, Alex has developed multimedia presentations that use innovative technologies to educate global and country-level audiences about population, health, and environment issues.

© 1999 Song Kimhour, Courtesy of PhotoshareIn January, the InternationalCenter for Research on Women (ICRW) and the United Nations Foundation (UNF) hosted a discussion about milestones in adolescent and youth health and development. All of the presenters emphasized the need for a holistic approach to the health and development of young people—one that enables them to delay marriage and childbearing, access youth-friendly health services, prevent the onset of mental disorders and non-communicable diseases, and thrive in a supportive environment. Amanda Keifer of the Public Health Institute highlighted that with the creation of the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration, the global community is moving in the right direction by putting young people’s rights at the heart of development.

However, a participant raised an interesting point during the event:  if we have compelling arguments about the importance of investing in adolescents and youth, why can’t we translate this information into tangible financial and political commitments? In my opinion, there are two distinct, yet inter-related answers to this question:

  1. We just do not have enough data. Upon opening the 8-page “centerfold” from the Lancet series on adolescents, one would immediately notice the abundance of dashes in lieu of data points for many countries around the world (particularly low- and middle-income countries). In fact, we only just recently calculated how many adolescents die every year. Contrary to what many would assume (after all, adolescence is considered the healthiest time of a person’s life), the figure is rather high: in 2004, 2.6 million people ages 10-24 died, with deaths increasing from adolescence into young adulthood.
  2. Even when we have reliable data, we are not doing enough with it. Though far from a complete picture, we have quite a bit of data about the sexual and reproductive health status of young people thanks to several large-scale surveys. But certainly, we cannot expect to achieve the types of investments we need across all sectors—health, education, economic development, governance, and gender, among others—if these data remain on our bookshelves and do not get into the hands of decision makers who determine funding levels and government priorities.

And that’s where we come into the picture. At the Population Reference Bureau, we are in the business of communicating technical data and research to decision makers in compelling, clear formats. One of the ways we achieve this goal is through our ENGAGE presentations. Integrating Trendalyzer and multimedia software platforms, ENGAGE presentations explore associations among fertility, health, economic, and environment indicators in a visually stimulating way. They have been used to define agendas, focus discussions, and encourage dialogue about solutions to today’s development challenges.

And there is even a presentation about young people! The ENGAGE presentation The Time is Now:  Invest in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Young People delivers evidence-based messages about how sexual and reproductive health investments protect the well-being of young people and advance social and economic development. Using data and graphics, the presentation seeks to prioritize sexual and reproductive health for young people on policy agendas in sub-Saharan Africa. The presentation is available online in narrated and un-narrated formats in French and English with supporting presenter materials. And there are other issue-focused presentations to explore about family planning and poverty reduction as well as country-specific presentations and mini presentations.

It will take time to populate all of the dashes from the Lancet series with data points. But in the meantime, using policy advocacy tools that are available to us (like ENGAGE presentations) we can educate leaders about the importance of investing in young people to maximize their potential for healthy, productive lives.

This is an excerpt from a Pathfinder International News story; the original piece is available here.

UNFPA recently published its latest State of the World’s Population. The report details some of the paradoxes faced in a world that now has among the largest elderly and youth populations in history. As the world approaches 7 billion people, it becomes even more important to invest in universal access to family planning and to ensure adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights. “Nearly half the world’s population is under the age of 25—yet their needs are going unmet and their rights are going unfulfilled,” Callie Simon, Pathfinder’s Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Advisor said. “Around the world, we see young girls married, having children, and leaving school—that can have a devastating impact on their health, well-being, and their futures. We have to ensure young people have a voice and that we listen to their needs and support them in making healthy decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives.”

 The UNFPA report rightly states that young people have “hope, ambition and commitment to improve their own lives and those of their peers, neighbors, communities, and countries. Their success, however, will depend on their ability to take advantage of educational and economic opportunities as they arise and to overcome obstacles to their sexual and reproductive rights.”

“If we can meet the needs of young people, we can shape the course of the future of our world,” Daniel E. Pellegrom, President of Pathfinder, said. “Add to that universal access to contraception—for all people in their reproductive years, including adolescents—and we have a positive path then paved for our collective future.”

For more information about Pathfinder’s approach to adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, please visit: www.3BillionReasons.org

For more information on youth sexual and reproductive health research, programs, and materials, visit www.IYWG.org, sign-up for youth InfoNet, or follow us on twitter @IYWG.

This post orginally appeared on the FHI 360 blog, Degrees, and can be accessed here.

On October 31, 2011, the 7 billionth world citizen was born.

Only 50 years ago, the world population was 3 billion — less than half what it is today. What does this mean? Is our population growing too quickly, or is this milestone a testament to advances in agriculture, medicine and technology? As we look to the future — a future with more youth and more elderly than the world has ever known — how do we nurture opportunity and benefit from every person’s vast potential?

Together we can accomplish a great deal, but the world faces many challenges. The most rapid population growth is taking place in the poorest countries. An estimated 215 million women have no access to family planning. Persistent gender inequities fuel high fertility rates, which in turn hinder development. People across the globe are moving more — some in search of opportunity, others fleeing famine, violence or economic despair at home. And in some regions, the environment is in danger under the added strain of increased population.

We have our work cut out for us, but with 7 billion minds and hands working together – including individuals, families, communities and governments, along with the private and public sector – we can continue to innovate to improve lives worldwide.

The State of the World Population (UNFPA) examines where we have been, where we are now and what these numbers mean for our collective future. View The State of the World Population Report.

What do you think?

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This blog is brought to you by the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG) with financial assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The content is managed by FHI, which functions as the secretariat for the IYWG.
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