A second chance in the second decade

Policies to support adolescents’ health


Implications for action

National policies may seek to protect individual rights and outline the state’s role in protecting these individual rights. But developing policies is also about politics—and politics thrives on public opinion. In many societies the public’s opinions of young people are often negative, although realization of the need to support them is growing. The health sector’s role in developing and implementing policy is crucial to assure a safe and supportive environment for adolescents to develop and flourish. This is particularly important as governments are now faced with considerable policy challenges to regulate commercial interests that threaten the health of adolescents (and other populations).

Beyond sexual and reproductive health. Currently, adolescents are often addressed in health policies that deal with sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. They now need the same level of inclusion in policies on nutrition, mental health, substance use, violence and injury prevention, and other health areas. Also, more attention needs to be paid to monitoring policy measures as they are enacted through regulations and programmes and to better understanding their impact on the health of adolescents.31 Enhancing the use of the UN human rights monitoring mechanisms (e.g. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child) by requiring information on marketing practices and other negative influences on adolescents’ health is another avenue for scrutinizing governments’ attention to adolescents. Meaningful attention to adolescents in national strategic plans and a wide range of policy directives will ensure that adolescents have access to needed information and health services and live in environments that promote and protect their health throughout the second decade and beyond.


Improvement of the environmental situation in the country and the world. The tightening of laws on tobacco smoking and alcohol. As well as high quality medical service at any time.

female, 15-17, Republic of Moldova

I know government guidance is to eat 5 fresh fruit and vegetables per day and up to 2000 calories per day. I also understand that it is unhealthy and illegal to use cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.

male, 12-14, United Kingdom

A law that criminalizes abortion, and if I have the need to end a pregnancy I could go to jail.

female, 15-17, Mexico

These laws should be enforced with greater strength. Although I have chosen to abstain from such, I have friends my age and younger that are able to purchase alcohol, cigarettes and drugs and such on a regular basis.

female, 15-17, Switzerland

’Many laws have rules about nutritional content and the fabrication of food in general, forbidding products that are dangerous to our health. Laws about not selling alcohol to minors and not smoking in public also help to preserve our health.

male, 15-17, France