Pakistan’s adolescent population (circa. 40 million people) is experiencing a double burden of malnutrition, with 21% of boys and 12% of girls underweight and 18% of boys and 17% of girls overweight or obese. This merits a call to action to prioritise public funding and programming to address the determinants of adolescent malnutrition.
Adolescence is defined as the period of 10-19 years. In 2017, almost one out of five Indonesians was an adolescent (44.93 million adolescents). Nutrition is one of the cornerstones for adolescent health. Adolescence is a life stage for physical growth and an opportunity for developing healthy dietary practices.
Bangladesh’s ambitions for middle-income status require the energy and creativity of the next generation. Investments in the nutrition of adolescents will enable this potential by realizing the demographic dividend.
Malnutrition during adolescence can have lifelong consequences. Adolescents undergo rapid biological and socioemotional changes and set lifelong dietary and related habits. Gender norms can leave girls disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, but many adolescent boys are malnourished as well. Adolescent girls are at risk of dropping out of school, marrying, and becoming pregnant - all of which can harm their nutrition and health as well as that of their offspring.
The period 10-19 years of age is one of accelerated growth both physically and psychosocially. Boys and girls during this rapid growth phase have increased nutritional requirements of both macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) and micronutrients. This is due to rapid physical growth and the onset of menses in girls and accelerated muscle and bone mass development in boys.
While the first 1,000 days remains a critical period of nutritional need, adolescence the period from 10-19 years of age is characterised by rapid biological and psychosocial growth and development. Up to 45% of skeletal growth takes place and 15 to 25% of adult height is achieved during adolescence.
Adolescence presents an opportunity to influence diet, which impacts present and future health outcomes, yet adolescent diets globally are poorly understood. This study estimated mean frequency of consumption and prevalence of less-than-daily fruit and vegetable consumption, at-least-daily carbonated beverage consumption, and at-least-weekly fast-food consumption among school-going adolescents.
The framework comprises a set of drivers, plus four determinants (food supply chains, external food environments, personal food environments, and behaviours of caregivers, children and adolescents), which together influence the diets of children and adolescents.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) organised a consultation in Geneva in June 2018, which brought together more than 80 researchers, practitioners, policymakers and youth organisations, as well as adolescents from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Zambia. This paper reports on the discussions and outcomes of the workshop.
Food systems are essential to delivering healthy, affordable and sustainable diets, but the nutritional needs of children and adolescents are often not prioritised. UNICEF and GAIN co-hosted a global consultation on children, adolescents and food systems in November 2018.