The health needs of young people must be at the core of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programmes for the interventions to be successful, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has said.

The First Lady said the inclusion of the health needs of adolescents in policy formulation would ensure they are not left behind in accessing healthcare services.

She noted that the continued lumping together of adolescents and youth with women and children by global and national health strategies makes many assumptions that fail to address the health needs of this critical segment of the world population.

“Not surprisingly, this has resulted in numerous urgent calls to address adolescents healthcare because while they have been perceived as healthy, they face considerable risks of adverse chronic health issues,” she said.

The First Lady spoke on Monday evening in Geneva, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the 72nd World Health Assembly at an event dubbed ‘Adolescent health – the Missing population in Universal Health Coverage (UHC)’. The event focused on putting the needs of adolescents at the centre of efforts to achieve UHC.

She said the inclusion of young people in the global health agenda would help in harnessing the demographic dividend and maximize the contribution of this important segment of human capital to global growth

The First Lady expressed concern that available statistics showed higher rates of violence and injuries, addiction, depression and mental health issues among adolescents and the youth in general, an indication that their health needs required more attention

“We are told that one out of six of the world’s population are adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years. Therefore, recognizing adolescents as key partners in the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets is critical,” the First Lady said.

She said one of the major concerns, especially on the African continent, is the new surge of illnesses facing young people as a result of non-communicable diseases and HIV.

“We must not accept to reverse the gains we have made in health. We must encourage young people to access health services.  Our young people’s priority is not ill-health or disease, it is jobs, relationships and their future,” the First Lady said.