Adolescent and Young People’s Health
Eivind Engebretsen, SHE, SustainIT, UiO
Gaby Saldanha, SHE, SustainIT, UiO
Mona Baker, SHE, SustainIT, UiO
Robyn Boeré, Faculty of Theology, UiO
Holly Newby, World Health Organization (PMNCH partner)
The aim of this strand of the OMC corpus is to facilitate the analysis of texts about adolescents’ and young people’s health. The corpus is developed in collaboration with PMNCH, a network of organizations that advocates for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. PMNCH is organized into constituencies, all of which have a role in the production and circulation of health discourses about women, children and adolescents. These constituencies serve as a framework for the selection of texts to be included, in an effort to ensure the representation of different perspectives: researchers, health professionals, governmental and non-governmental organizations, grassroots organizations.
One of the key goals of SHE is to equip healthcare professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to promote sustainability and act as agents of change. By fostering a deep understanding of the interplay between individual needs and global principles, SHE aims to help healthcare professionals balance these competing demands and make decisions that benefit both people and the planet. To support research in this area, a corpus of texts is being compiled that focuses on how language shapes our understanding of particular demographic groups and their health. By creating a collection of texts based on demographic criteria (such as age), researchers can explore how language constructs different subjects and positions them in relation to one another. This is particularly important in fields like bioethics and reproductive health, where language can have a significant impact on how people view themselves and their health. Below is a brief rationale for the initial choice of sub-topics to focus on:
- Menstrual Health issues affect almost two billion people worldwide. On average, menstruation begins around age 12, making it a key issue as young people enter their adolescence. Especially, but not limited to developing nations, social stigma, lack of gender equality, lack of sanitation facilities, and lack of access to menstrual materials all mean that menstruation can lead to significant disruption in education and daily lives. Even for youths in rich countries, luxury taxes on such materials increase the price for adolescents and signal a stigma around menstruation. It is well-documented that there is a gender imbalance in terms of the seriousness with which physicians acknowledge and investigate pain, especially abdominal pain. Diagnostic delay in causes of abdominal and pelvic pain mean that many adolescents suffer from painful periods, which affects their daily lives and mental health. Diagnostic delay in conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS can cause significant distress, especially as these conditions are often related to fertility problems. Menstrual health is linked to reproduction, with childbirth as a leading cause of death worldwide among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19.
- Circumcision. The UN estimates that around 30% of males over the age of 14 worldwide are circumcised. The majority of males are circumcised in infancy, but in some cultures, circumcision is a rite of passage to adulthood. The WHO and UNAIDS have been recommending adolescent circumcision since 2007 in areas affected by high prevalence of HIV. This means that more boys are getting voluntarily circumcised as adolescents because this is predicted to lower the risk of HIV. Circumcision practices in infancy and adolescence are influenced by education, socioeconomic factors, and community practice. There is a distinct lack of research on the psychosocial effects of the practice among adolescents, including potential effects on their sexual health and body image, for example.
- Mental Health. Suicide is among the top five causes of death among young people aged 10-19, according to the World Health Organization. As Guthold et al. note, it is important to address mental health across the life course, but particularly important to do so during adolescence (10–19 years), a unique and formative period for social and emotional development which lays the foundation for long-term and intergenerational health and well-being.
(1) Global Institutions
- United Nations: Adolescent Sexuality
- WHO: Working for a brighter, healthier future – How WHO improves health and promotes well-being for the world’s adolescents
(2) Academic Publications
- Scientific articles, e.g. articles published in the Journal of Adolescent Health
(3) Youth-led Organizations and Networks
- Newsletters and Fact Sheets published by Advocates for Youth
(4) Health-Care Professional Associations
- Association for Young People’s Health (10-25): Young people and their mental health – Is there a crisis? And is it the one we think it is?
(5) Non-governmental Organisations
- UNICEF’s Preventing a Lost Decade: Urgent action to reverse the devastating impact of Covid-19 on children and young people
PROJECTED AND COMPLETED OUTCOMES/ACTIVITIES
The corpus will be particularly useful to the success of current SHE projects, such as:
- The Medicalisation of Democratic Rights in the Debate about Abortion (MEDRA) (funded by UiO:Democracy for 3 years)
- International Thematic Research Network on Global Health, Sustainable Development and Individual Responsibility (funded by Circle U.)
POTENTIAL MA/MD PROJECTS
- How does health discourse contribute to the normalization of specific concepts such as childhood, infancy, adolescence, youth, teenagers?
- How are children, adolescents and young people’s attitudes to health portrayed in the literature? What assumptions are made about the degree of autonomy of children of different ages?
- How are children’s and adolescent’s voices incorporated, or not, in the literature about their health?
- Why are girls mentioned more often than boys in the health literature on adolescents’ health? How is children’s, adolescent and young people’s health gendered and/or sexualized?
- How are children, adolescents and young people portrayed in relations of care, as entitled to, receiving, in need of, or giving care to self and others?
- To what extent are children, adolescents and young people represented as citizens? What metaphors are employed to describe growing up in the literature on health? What do these metaphors tell us about our bodies and life cycles?