By: Kiara Sahi, Contributing writer
Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to say that there’s no time like the present to brush up your knowledge on all things regarding health. While this pandemic has thrown the world into an unprecedented year and a half of loss, grief, and an overworked healthcare sector, it has also highlighted just how important simplified, accurate, and easily accessible information about health and healthcare is.
Let’s review a bit of information and try to find a common link between all these facts and statistics, shall we?
According to WHO, in the 10-19 year old age bracket, poor mental health accounts for 16% of the global toll of disease and injury, while suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens in the 15-19 age bracket. In addition to this, most cases of mental health disorders among teens are left undetected, and thus, untreated. 155 million adolescents worldwide drink alcohol. In 2016, the prevalence of heavy drinking was at 13.6%, with males at the most risk, among adolescents aged 15-19 years. In 2018, about 4.7% of teens in the age 15-16 demographic were using cannabis. Worldwide, at least 1 in 10 adolescents use tobacco, starting from an age as early as 13. As of 2019, around 1.7 million adolescents from the ages of 10 to 19 years were living with HIV. In 2020, birth rates varied from 1 to 200 births per 1000 female adolescents aged 15-19 years, with the leading cause of death among girls in this age bracket being complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
After going through that information, it becomes prominently clear that the common link between these statistics is the age bracket. We’re looking at the health conditions of teenagers.
While the causes of these instances range from sexual abuse to unstable domestic environments, one thing is clear: providing accessible and comprehensive health literature to teenagers is an absolute necessity that can bring these numbers down considerably.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a greater number of schools across the U.S.A provided health education regarding violence prevention and suicide in 2018 as compared to 2008. The same report, however, also highlighted a significant decrease in the number of schools providing education pertaining to HIV prevention, which fell from 93% to 87% in 2018. 17 school districts funded by the CDC from the years 2013 to 2018 were provided with the resources and opportunity to expand their sexual health education as well as increase student access to sexual health services. As a result, the Youth Risk Behaviour Survey conducted in those districts in 2019 showed a significant decrease in the number of sexually active students or students who had four or more sexual partners throughout their lifetime.
While these efforts that have previously been made by schools play a pivotal role in improving awareness among students and consequently improve their general health practices, they alone cannot be relied upon due to a number of factors that render access to proper health education as a variable, not a constant. This is why it is absolutely essential that teenagers themselves take the initiative to understand more about healthcare and help their peers do so as well.
We are currently in the middle of an “infodemic,” during which we are seeing the rapid spread of misinformation. A recent study examined 100 million Facebook users and their views with respect to the COVID-19 vaccinations. The number of people who were pro-vaccine came to about 6.9 million while those who were against the vaccines came to 4.2 million. While the number of Facebook users who were against vaccinations is lower than the number of pro-vaccine users, the same study found that the anti-vaccine group had greater interaction with the remaining 74.1% facebook users with undecided opinions. The “Plandemic” video that falsely stated that wearing a mask leads to self-infection and also dishonestly accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of manufacturing the virus and sending it to China had reached 8 million viewers on social media before it was taken down (WHO).
As of 2018, 90% of teens aged 13-17 years had used social media, 75% had social media accounts, and 51% reported visiting a social media site daily. Which means the same teens who do not have access to any forms of health education in school, or at least, those who are provided with inadequate health information, form the majority of viewers that are at risk of consuming misinformation propagated through the media.
This is why the mission of Teen Health 101 is to provide simplified, reliable, and accurate information to our peers to combat the spread of misinformation. We aim to provide all relevant and verified health information to our readers, encouraging them to educate themselves and become self-aware as well as responsible teens who are ready to take on the world and help the efforts of several healthcare organizations in promoting health literacy.
We urge you to take that step towards awareness and education. Whether you take it upon yourself to lead an initiative, inform and encourage your peers, or to simply take the time to brush up on health information, you are effectively discovering your potential to be a contributing member of our society, you are recognising that you, as a teen, will be the future of this world, a person who will lead and make this world a better place, and you’re taking a step towards locking that in with certainty.