International Adolescent Health Week 2021 - Adolescent Resilience in the Face of a Pandemic
Guest post by Laura Offutt
International Adolescent Health Week – March 21-27, 2021
International Adolescent Health Week (IAHW) is an annual health campaign consisting of dynamic participatory events to inspire adolescents and their communities to advocate for a successful transition into adulthood. Initiated as “Pennsylvania Teen Health Week” in 2016, and observed globally since 2018, IAHW engages adolescents through health-related activities and education, but also by seeking and incorporating their input into IAHW planning. A passionate group of adolescent health professionals within the International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH) and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) have been tirelessly collaborating and working across borders to improve and grow this global observance.
Many IAHW 2020 events were abruptly canceled due to the, at that time new, COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, COVID-19 directly affects adolescents in many ways, including COVID-related illness and death, significant educational disruptions, limited social interaction at a stage of development when peer relationships are critically important, stress and exacerbation of mental health symptoms, and job and financial instability. The pandemic’s indirect effects result in fewer well-visits for preventive care, delayed presentation to care for illness, delayed or missed vaccinations, and rising rates of STIs, substance abuse and family and community violence. Through these challenges and uncertainties, many adolescents demonstrate tremendous resilience and adaptability. For this reason, the theme for International Adolescent Health Week 2021 is “Adolescent Resilience in the Face of a Pandemic”.
This year, a formal Youth Ambassador program was launched. These international youth leaders provide input into the development of IAHW 2021 by sharing regional adolescent health concerns, contributing to resources, and championing IAHW in their own communities and countries. They have authored their own article in this newsletter. They have proposed numerous appealing and educational IAHW activities which would be suitable with COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions. These ideas and more can be found in the IAHW toolkits with links to resources, sample social media posts, and activities which can be conducted by medical practices and hospitals, by schools and universities, by community and youth groups, and by individuals.
Adolescent health issues that predated COVID-19 remain important, even during an all-consuming global pandemic. Therefore, organizations are invited to observe IAHW by highlighting any adolescent health issues relevant in their communities, from encouraging healthy behaviors and habits to advocating for youth-focused policy addressing healthy and safe communities, socio-economic determinants of health, and adolescents’ rights. And do remember to add something lime green, the IAHW color representing the high energy and passion of adolescence!