The MHTF Quarterly shares resources, research and news in key maternal health areas. This quarter, we’re focusing on adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

The world currently has the largest generation of 10 to 24 year-olds in human history. Though adolescent populations are generally relatively healthy compared to other age groups, adolescents face unique challenges that can have serious implications for their physical and mental health throughout their life course, as well as effects on the health of their future offspring. In some regions, sexual and reproductive health problems including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are major causes of adolescent mortality and morbidity. Across the globe, unsafe sex is a leading risk factor for death and disability among both male and female adolescents ages 15 to 19 years old. Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy and unmet need for contraceptives and safe abortion.

In 2015, 19.4 million girls between the ages of 10 and 19 years gave birth, 480,000 of whom were younger than 15 years old. The vast majority of births among adolescents occur in low-resource settings, often as a result of societal factors including gender inequality, poverty and a lack of access to education and reproductive health services. Between 1995 and 2011, roughly one in five girls living in developing countries became pregnant before she turned 18 years old. Early pregnancy increases the likelihood of contracting an STI, dropping out of school, experiencing mental health issues and developing life-threatening childbirth-related complications.

A number of interventions aimed at addressing these challenges have been implemented in diverse settings, but many of them have not been rigorously evaluated. Further research is required to better understand the local needs of adolescents and identify effective strategies to improve their sexual and reproductive health. Developing interventions focused on addressing mental health issues in adolescent populations is also essential given that self-harm is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls. Increased efforts to meet the health needs of adolescents are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and represent a worthwhile opportunity for investment.
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Health for the World’s Adolescents: A Second Chance in the Second Decade

World Health Organization | 2016

Knowledge Summary #35: Act Now for Adolescents

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health | 2016

Global Standards for Quality Health Care Services for Adolescents

World Health Organization | 2015

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030)

Every Woman Every Child | 2015 

Adolescent Girls in Disaster & Conflict: Interventions for Improving Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

UNFPA | 2016

Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy

UNFPA | 2013
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Improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health: A systematic review of potential interventions

Journal of Adolescent Health | October 2016

The causes of maternal mortality in adolescents in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review of the literature

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth | November 2016

What works? Systematic assessments of sexual and reproductive interventions for young people in low- and middle-income countries

Journal of Adolescent Health Series | September 2016

Our future: A Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing

The Lancet | June 2016

Realising the health and wellbeing of adolescents

BMJ | September 2015 

Global burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors for young people's health during 1990–2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013

The Lancet | June 2016

Sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescent girls: Evidence from low- and middle-income countries

Global Public Health | January 2015
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Building a Monitoring and Accountability Framework for Adolescents

Matthews Mathai

Health Challenges Faced by Adolescents Today

Laura Laski

The Global State of Adolescent Health

Laura Laski

Incidence of Abortion Among Adolescents, Worldwide: Levels and Recent Trends

Ann Starrs

Non Health Sector Interventions for Adolescents

Ariadna Capasso
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International Day of the Girl Child: Improving the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents Around the Globe

Sarah Hodin | October 2016

Global Leaders in Maternal and Newborn Health: Patrick Mwesigye (Uganda)

Sarah Hodin | August 2016

Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health Knowledge Summary: Act Now for Adolescents

Sarah Hodin | July 2016

Strategies for Increasing Contraception Access to Adolescents

Katie Millar | July 2014
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Key Reports

Key Publications


Blog Posts

MHTF is always looking for new resources, research, perspectives and news. We invite your feedback as well as any resources you would like to share. Please email your comments, questions, suggestions and blog contributions.
Check out a video of “Underage: Addressing Reproductive Health and HIV in Married Adolescents,” an event the MHTF co-hosted at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.
Join the conversation on social media

Copyright © 2016 Maternal Health Task Force at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, All rights reserved.

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