ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard: Identifying Unmet Health Needs for Adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa

Adolescents make up 23 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population, but understanding and meeting their unique health needs has long been a neglected area. A new series of papers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Africa Research Implementation Science and Education (ARISE) Network aims to help fill that gap. The work presents the results from surveys of 8,075 adolescents in seven countries, identifying behaviors and risk factors related to nutritionmental health, and sexual and reproductive health.

“Investing in adolescents has significant benefits for their health now and in the future, and for their ability to raise healthy families,” said Dr. Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences and professor of nutrition, epidemiology, and global health. He noted that behaviors established at this stage of life can shape adult behaviors and long-term health outcomes. “Our research highlights the need for longitudinal and intervention studies that can provide evidence on effective strategies for improving adolescents’ health and well-being.”

The papers were published online January 2020 in a special issue of Tropical Medicine and International Health.

Out-of-school adolescents were more likely to report ever having had sexual intercourse, and less likely to have used a condom the most recent time they had sex, or to have visited a primary care clinic, than those in school.

Overall, the researchers found that poor diet, inadequate physical activity, violence, and risky sexual behavior are important risk factors for adolescents in the communities they studied.

— Amy Roeder

Tags: ,