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MOHW tackles adolescent health and development

HighlightsMOHW tackles adolescent health and development

by Khaila Gentle

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Sept. 9, 2022

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has developed and launched a national strategy for addressing adolescent health and development. The Adolescent Health National Strategic Plan 2019-2030 outlines the steps that the Ministry will be taking in what Dr. Natalia Beer calls a holistic approach to adolescent wellness that goes far beyond just diseases and healthcare.

Beer, who is the Technical Advisor for Maternal and Child Health in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, spoke with the media on Friday and explained that the national strategy has been almost three years in the making.

“For a few years before the pandemic hit Belize, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other line ministries and partners, we got together and we worked on the development of the National Strategic Plan for Adolescent Health and we finalized it in the year 2019,” she said.

The plan was successfully developed through a collaborative effort among the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MoECST); the Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples Affairs, and a number of youth-based organizations and UN agencies.

“We have under the plan three outcomes. The first one is to improve the access to services … The second outcome speaks to reducing risk behaviors among adolescents, and we know that the most important thing is to increase the access to information to help them make better decisions. And then the last one has to do with environments that are safe and nurturing where adolescents grow,” said Dr. Beer.

Adolescents, or those between the ages of ten and nineteen, make up almost a quarter of the country’s population, and according to a report by UNICEF, they are particularly underserved by health programs in Belize. The new strategic plan is an effort to address this along with many critical health issues, such as mental health, adolescent pregnancy, sexual and gun violence, and road traffic accidents, to name a few. It also seeks to improve opportunities for positive adolescent development and focuses on the areas of education, sports, and several others as well.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Belize is among the first countries to develop a National Adolescent Health Strategic Plan under the guidance of the WHO’s Accelerating Action for Health of Adolescents strategy.

One of the highlights of the development of the plan, said Dr. Beer, is that adolescents from all over the country were involved in plan-formulation.

“We conducted consultations with them, and then we heard from them what their problems are. We heard from them what the possible recommendations to address these problems are, and that’s the way we built the plan. So the plan is developed in a manner that when the adolescent reads the document, they will find themselves there from beginning to end, because it speaks to adolescence,” she said.

According to Dr. Beer, the plan was developed in a way that it can be considered a living document—one that can be revisited after 2030 to enable further planning for the future.

The Adolescent Health National Strategic Plan 2019-2030 in its entirety can be accessed on the UNICEF website at https://www.unicef.org/belize/reports/adolescent-health-national-strategic-plan-2019-2030.

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