Lao PDR brings together adolescence and nutrition experts on its Regional Adolescent Research Day to bridge existing data gaps, to the benefit of Noi – our adolescent girl
October 23, 2017, Vientiane Capital – Multi-stakeholders including nationals, international participants and speakers from across the globe joined this year’s Adolescent Research Day at Crowne Plaza, Vientiane, Lao PDR. Hosted by the National Institute of Public Health (NIOPH) and supported by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), MCNV and EU-Learn, the event brought its theme “Nutrition & Reproductive Health form a Life-Cycle Perspective – Closing the Adolescent Data Gap to Achieve Sustainable Development” to discussion as a pre-conference to the 11th National Health Research Forum.
Last year’s event was the first Adolescent Research Day in Lao PDR, indicating the importance and increased attention brought to our young people. The event established an Adolescent Research Agenda to guide future research. The day also introduced an online partnership platform Sustainable Development Goals for Adolescents (SDG4A)1. The website aims to bring together actors in an attempt to join forces for programming and research purposes within the field of adolescent health. Discussions initiated during last year’s Adolescent Research Day have resulted in a new partnership initiative for Noi – the adolescent girl in Lao PDR. This was celebrated during the International Day of the Girl Child at Crowne Plaza earlier this month, where government and development partners committed to increasing our efforts for adolescents and emphasized the importance of generating quality evidence within the SDG Agenda, the Noi 2030 Framework2.
H.E. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phouthone Moungpak, Vice Minister of Health marked in his opening speech for the Adolescent Research Day: “When nutrition is brought to discussion, people often think about young children and mothers. This understanding reflects the lack of data, programming, policy and of course, investment in adolescent nutrition and health outcomes. In order to achieve national and global goals, dialogues among adolescent girls need to be recognized.”
Lao PDR has one of the highest adolescent birth rates in the region with 76 in 1000 girls aged 15-19 years old3. In addition, 1 in 5 adolescent girls are underweight and more than 1/3 of women in reproductive age are anaemic4. Children born to mothers who start childbearing early are at risk of facing malnutrition: research shows that 44% of children under 5 years old in Lao PDR are stunted and 6% are wasted5.
Nevertheless, current research often ignores the fact that many mothers are adolescent girls with limited or no access to family planning because of their age, and subsequently does not consider their specific needs. Often forgotten are the increased nutritional needs adolescents, particularly girls, have when they go through adolescence. Their body grows significantly, their inner organs develop and they start to menstruate. Moreover, research and health interventions rarely take into account the increased costs and risks of adolescent pregnancy, adolescent malnutrition and anaemia.
“The Lao government is working hard to lift the country from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status by 2020. To do this, nutrition and reproductive health are essential. To break the cycle of malnutrition we cannot forget our adolescents and the crucial linkages between adolescent nutrition and generational nutrition in the generations to come,” the Vice Minister of Health added.
Lao PDR is positioning itself to bridge the data gap on adolescents by considering adding a section specifically dedicated to adolescents in the SDG voluntary report in 2018. Adolescent Research Day will focus on building partnerships as well as showcasing recent ones established for Noi under the Noi 2030 Framework.
“Two weeks ago on the International Day of the Girl Child, different partners from government, UN agencies, donors and civil society organizations showed strong interest in working together towards adolescent girls and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ms. Frederika Meijer, Representative of UNFPA Lao PDR.
Increasing the amount of quality data on adolescents will help to visualize their progress. Adolescent Research Day aims to continue building regional networks, mobilizing resources and generating quality evidence to contribute toward the national and global development goals.
“It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that by 2030, Noi will have passed through her adolescence healthy, is enjoying her rights and responsibilities and has fully realized her potential. By then, she will be able to contribute to the development of herself, her family, her community, her country and the world,” Ms. Frederika Meijer added at the end of the event.
For more information, please contact:
NIOPH: Ms. Hongkham Xayavong
Tel: 020 54224422
UNFPA: Ms. Kay amphone Singhalath
Tel: 021 267 680
Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) 2015: Working Together for Nutrition in Lao PDR. Health and Nutrition.
National Nutrition Forum 2016 Scaling up Multisectoral Coordination for Nutrition