Data-driven insights for adolescent health: a new frontier

15 June, 2023 By Liliana Carvajal Velez, Malvikha Manoj, Dee Wang, Joanna Lai
© UNICEF/UN0852519/Benevides

For young advocates passionate about making positive changes in their community, having reliable data is a powerful tool to advocate for better investments in improving health and other opportunities, especially when there are competing priorities.

Data holds the key to unlocking insights and driving effective action for the health and well-being of young people. Yet, we often find ourselves facing a data drought, lacking the information needed to make informed decisions. In our relentless pursuit to ensure a world where every adolescent can thrive, UNICEF has recently updated and re-launched an improved version of the Adolescent Health Dashboard, which includes Regional Profiles and Country Profiles – a tool that empowers researchers, policymakers, and advocates to better understand the challenges faced by adolescents locally and globally, identify disparities in health, and formulate evidence-based solutions to protect and promote the health of young people.

UNICEF’s Adolescent Health Regional and Country profiles offer users rich insights on the state of adolescent health across regions and within countries. These dashboards make it possible to compare critical health indicators across countries and regions. Each profile is divided into the following sections: Context, Burden of Disease, Risk Factors, Sexual Reproductive Health, Definitions and Sources, and Country Groups and Classification (regional profiles only). Each sub-section sheds light on a variety of adolescent health-related indicators including national policies for health, the burden of diseases and death, nutritional and behavioral risk factors, access to education, and other determinants of adolescent health.

A new section on Sexual and Reproductive Health has been added given the importance of this topic to the health and well-being of adolescents worldwide.  It highlights important information on the maternal context, sexual and reproductive indicators around informed decision-making, and produces HIV epidemic profiles. Together, these profiles reveal patterns, unveil trends, and expose disparities, acting as compasses for strategic interventions.

Visual storytelling takes center stage in the dashboards. Engaging charts, graphs, and maps present complex data in a simplified and accessible format. By translating numbers into meaningful visuals, the aim of the dashboard is to enhance comprehension, facilitate communication, and ignite dialogue among stakeholders, thereby catalyzing collaboration and inspiring action.

The Adolescent Health Regional and Country profiles can be a game-changer for programming, policies, and advocacy efforts for adolescent health. Equipped with reliable data, practitioners can design interventions that are tailored, context-specific, and effective. Whether it’s improving nutrition, promoting mental health, or tackling sexual and reproductive health, data-driven programming ensures that interventions are calibrated to address the unique challenges faced by each population.

Further, these profiles enable advocacy efforts by providing evidence of the challenges faced by adolescents and can serve as a potent tool for policy formulation and expansion. Accurate and compelling data mobilizes resources, garners support, and catalyzes efforts at local, national, and global levels.  By tracking successes and identifying opportunities across national policies and plans, policymakers can collaborate with relevant stakeholders to improve outcomes for adolescents within their countries.

By transforming data into actionable insights, UNICEF’s Adolescent Health Regional and Country Profiles strives to close those historic data gaps that prevent us from rallying towards advancing adolescent health. As we unlock the power of data, we pave the way for a brighter future—a world where every adolescent can flourish and thrive.