Why Adolescent nutrition is important
Adolescence (defined by the WHO as between age 10 and 19 years) is a time of rapid growth, second only to the first year of life. Children gain up to 50% of their adult weight and skeletal mass and more than 20% of their adult height during their adolescent years. It’s also a time of significant psychosocial development, and the establishing lifelong dietary and lifestyle habits
Adolescence is a unique point in the life cycle, as it is a:
- Biologically-sensitive period: of rapid growth, driven hormonally but needing adequate nutrition (quantity and quality) for optimal growth/development.
- Socially-sensitive period: attitudes and behaviours determining future health and non-communicable disease (NCD) risk are formed and reinforced, with lifelong consequences.
- Culturally-sensitive period: the ‘in limbo’ phase where adolescents are moving from childhood to adulthood can impact access to food at household level and beyond, as well as access to services.
Adolescents face a high burden of morbidity and mortality, yet are often overlooked in policies, programmes and guidelines. More recently, adolescents have been the focus of increased attention through global initiatives including The Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing, inclusion in the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016- 2030), and in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets.
Investments in adolescent health and wellbeing bring a triple dividend of benefit now, into future adult life, and for the next generation of children. We must create the opportunities to meaningfully engage with them in all aspects of their lives
Adolescent Nutrition at ENN
ENN first became involved in this topic in 2017 when we co-hosted a meeting with London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Save the Children, funded by Irish Aid, to discuss any sector needs and gaps. A synthesis paper was prepared as a background document for meeting, giving an overview of the ‘state of play’ and highlight key recent initiatives in the field of adolescent nutrition that set the scene for discussions. Following the meeting, the Adolescent Interest Group (now the ‘GANN’) and a specific adolescent nutrition section was created on en-net our digital global nutrition community forum.
See our summary of what we and our network achieved in 2023.
What we do
That every adolescent is nutritionally supported and afforded opportunities for optimal health and nutrition despite any past nutritional challenges
About Global Adolescent Nutrition Network (GANN)
GANN is a new network of researchers, academics, programmers, government representatives, donors, and UN agencies, coordinated by ENN, who hosts quarterly calls. The group currently consists of approximately 250 members.
Though the focus is on nutrition during the adolescent period, we also consider middle childhood (5-9 years) and the school-aged period (5-18 years). The aims of this interest group are to: identify emerging research; share operational experiences; disseminate relevant information; and help ‘bridge’ the disciplines of nutrition and other sectors. Our focus is on policy and practice, through research translation and coordinated advocacy.
The role of GANN members is
- To share updates/information regarding their work on adolescent nutrition.
- To feedback information from various international and national meetings discussing adolescent nutrition
- To identify and bring forward ideas for synergy, linkages and potential collaboration with other technical groups e.g. Technical Advisory Group on metrics for School Age and Adolescent Nutrition (SAAN), and programmes/initiatives, e.g. USAID Advancing Nutrition
About GANN Core group:
There is also a smaller ‘core group’ who work more closely and collaboratively together towards common objectives and a common ‘theory of change’.
Specific objectives of GANN core group includes;
- Work to ensure that evidence gaps on adolescent nutrition are collated, highlighted and are being prioritised by researchers and donors
- Facilitate and support the implementation of research studies, including large scale pilots, that address existing evidence gaps across diverse contexts
- Support international and national normative bodies to create and validate standardised assessment tools for nutrition (anthropometry, diets and micronutrient status) though knowledge management initiative
- Support and align advocacy efforts at national level and international level
- Help find the best ways of engaging young people in programmes, policy and research, and ensure its importance is recognised and actioned by key stakeholders
Supporting the West and Central Africa Region “Call to Action”
In November 2023, as part of the FANUS (Federation of African Nutrition Societies) Conference, the Regional Nutrition Working Group for West and Central Africa launched a “Call to Action” to advance adolescent nutrition. Learn more in English or in French.
For further information, or to get involved, contact Gwen email@example.com
Our resources on Adolescent Nutrition
At ENN we have and continue to undertake several projects focused on research compilation and evidence generation for the better nutrition of adolescents worldwide.
Recent resources include:
Any questions, please get in touch with the team: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Reference this page
SH (). Adolescent Nutrition. www.ennonline.net/ourwork/adolescentnutrition