Stark BMA report paints gloomy picture of teen health

A report from the British Medical Association (BMA) has presented a gloomy assessment of the health of the nation's teenagers.

The 'Adolescent Health' report concluded that one fifth of young teens were overweight, a quarter of 15 and 16 year olds smoke regularly and just over 10% of 11 to 15 year olds admitted to taking drugs in the past 12 months.

The report, by the BMA's Board of Science, probed many aspects of adolescent health, including – nutrition, exercise and obesity; smoking drinking and drug use; mental health; and sexual health.

The BMA has now called on the government to invest in services that specifically target the health requirements of adolescents.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's Head of Science and Ethics, said: "Young people in Britain are increasingly likely to be overweight, indulge in binge drinking, have a sexually transmitted infection and suffer mental health problems.

"It is high time we provided education and healthcare services that target the specific needs of young people. We need to ensure that young people do not fall in between the gap between services for children and those designed for adults."

Dr Nathanson added that current provision for sexual health services in the UK was "woefully inadequate" and services targeting the needs of adolescents "are almost non-existent".

"We must invest properly in sexual health and provide services that young people feel comfortable using if we are to reduce the burgeoning levels of sexually transmitted diseases," she said.

Dr Russell Viner, Consultant in Adolescent Medicine, University College Hospitals and Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "We also need to develop a co-ordinated approach to adolescent health that involves healthcare, education, social services and youth justice system so that we can target all young people including those who may be most at risk such as young offenders, the homeless and people from deprived communities."

The report calls for, among other things, social skills training and anti-bullying policies, a ban on alcohol advertising and a reduction in the availability of cigarettes, and school-based sex education linked to improved access to contraception services.

Adolescent Health is aimed at doctors faced with treating young people, as well as policy makers, as it contains research-based practical measures to improve the health of the young people in the UK.


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