OTTAWA, May 15, 2017 – The world’s 1.8 billion adolescents will have a chance to build healthy futures for themselves, their families and their countries if support and interventions are provided right now, say international health and sustainability experts. A worldwide effort to develop a global roadmap for action on adolescent health will coalesce in Ottawa this week as 300 experts and advocates gather for the Global Adolescent Health Conference: Unleashing the Power of A Generation (May 16 & 17). Canadian leadership on child and adolescent health has been significant in recent years with a range of proactive initiatives by the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) and its members.

There are about 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 – the largest youth population ever. Many of them are concentrated in developing countries. In fact, in the world’s 48 least developed countries, children or adolescents make up a majority of the population. – Office of the Secretary General on Youth, United Nations.

“Adolescents can be the real game changers, so we need to focus on them. They hold the key to a more sustainable future and we need to urgently address the inequities that hold them back, especially in the developing world,” says Helen Scott, Executive Director of CanWaCH, “We need to set them up for success. How they experience the world now, and how their health, and the health of their communities, is protected and nurtured, will determine what our global future looks like.” CanWaCH is hosting the Conference, along with Global Affairs Canada, the Every Woman Every Child movement, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, the Conference will focus on four issue pillars: Nutrition; Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights; Mental Health; and Data. Participants include government officials, civil society leaders, academia and youth themselves.

“The collective responsibility for delivering on the SDGs will need young people to take action across borders and at country level around the world,” says UN Deputy SecretaryGeneral, Amina J. Mohammed. “Empowering our youth will be key if we are to ignite their potential to be the first generation to end poverty and the last to take climate action to stop irreversible damage to our planet.”

Looking through the critical social determinants of health lens, knowledge exchange and coordinated action will be the primary focus as Conference participants explore the links between adolescents’ health and empowerment, and the realization of more sustainable and peaceful societies around the world. With a view to strengthening global action plans, Conference participants will identify the solutions available through best practices, policy and program initiatives, and a common understanding of the drivers of structural inequality faced by adolescents – particularly girls – which contribute to ill health, lack of opportunities and diminished life prospects.

“The overarching goal of this Conference is to stimulate greater action by all partners on adolescent health as a key driver of the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Helga Fogstad, Executive Director, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, who notes a growing consensus about the barriers to positive health outcomes and the solutions required. “Youth voices will be at the forefront of the conference, emphasizing the fundamental right of these young people – poised between childhood and adulthood – to participate and be heard.”

Two new publications aimed at supporting the implementation of the Global Strategy will be launched at the Conference. The first – Global Accelerated Action for the Health of Adolescents (AA-HA!) – is a guidance document that will support country implementation and includes the latest adolescent mortality and morbidity estimates from WHO. The second – Advocating for Change for Adolescents Toolkit – is the result of a collaboration between PMNCH and Women Deliver. Developed by young people, for young people, this toolkit is a practical guide for youth networks to design, implement, and monitor an effective national advocacy action roadmap on adolescent health and well-being. The Toolkit aims to encourage the meaningful engagement of youth and drive positive advocacy and accountability efforts that will influence national health plans and policy processes, especially in terms of the prioritization of adolescent health and well-being.

While engaging a strong contingent of youth delegates via a Conference Youth Council, the Conference will use TED Talk style presentations, plenary sessions and panels, breakout sessions, as well as thematic networking breaks, to share and leverage their expertise and experiences.

Conference Speakers include:
• Honorary Conference Chair, The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
• Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations
• Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan
• Ambassador Marc-André Blanchard, Canada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations
• Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, WHO
• Gerda Verburg, Assistant UN Secretary-General and Scaling Up Nutrition Movement Coordinator
• Mariam Claeson, Director, Global Financing Facility
• Helga Fogstad, Executive Director, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health
• Helen Scott, Executive Director of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH)
• Katja Iversen, President/CEO, Women Deliver
• A complete list of Conference speakers can be found at here.

The Conference will:
• Reaffirm consensus about and commitment to ensure that adolescents exercise their agency as a key constituency for achieving the SDGs and EWEC targets;
• Improve data gathering and action planning focused on adolescents’ health and well-being;
• Provide supportive strategies that help adolescents realize their human rights, including their right to health, through empowerment, gender equality and strengthened adolescents’ agency; and
• Identify gaps in knowledge and strengthen key partnerships to shape future conversations and actions.

CanWaCH has consistently played a leadership role in international discussions about the health status of women and children globally. CanWaCH assures Canadian collaboration among 100 member organizations in 1,000 communities worldwide. It capitalizes on the data revolution, connecting experts, and communicating impact to stakeholders. The innovative work of CanWaCH members to put adolescents front and centre on the global health agenda will be highlighted and affirmed through this important global conference.

The Every Woman Every Child movement, launched in 2010 and led by the UN Secretary-General, aims to intensify national and international commitment and action by governments, the United Nations, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to ensure that women, children and adolescents are at the heart of development. As a platform to operationalize the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, the Every Woman Every Child movement mobilizes coordinated efforts across sectors to deliver on the promises of a sustainable future for all.


Media Contact: Lisa Robertson: 613 739-7032

Susan Wright: 519 703-2020

Media resource links:
#GlobalYouth2017 [#Santéjeunes2017]