Adolescent nutrition

We continue to focus on supporting adolescent girls and boys to understand their own health, growth, development, and their potential to benefit from good nutrition.

Through our adolescent health and nutrition program we are supporting adolescents to become advocates for themselves and make healthy life decisions. We are also working to prevent adolescent anaemia through weekly iron and folic acid supplementation (WIFAS).

While efforts are intensifying to reach out-of-school girls in the community, schools remain the main platform to deliver adolescent health and nutrition programs. COVID-19 closures presented a roadblock, as the majority of students were out of school and many girls were delayed in returning or didn’t come back at all. As schools gradually reopened in 2021, delivery of WIFAS and nutrition education was able to resume through school-based partnerships. With the health and education sectors as the main partners, training teachers along with health workers on the risks and consequences of anaemia and the potential for girls to benefit from WIFAS has been a key focus. Training and support for peer educators, and nutrition session and curriculum development have supported the expansion of nutrition education for adolescents. In countries where the adolescent nutrition program is relatively new, we also worked to ensure the availability of the appropriate form of iron and folic acid supplements when they have not yet been procured by the government.

Gender-sensitive nutrition education, behaviour change intervention strategies and training modules helped to promote community awareness and sensitize health workers to the specific nutrition needs of adolescent girls and boys, so parents, teachers, health workers, community influencers and adolescents themselves are motivated to support improving adolescent nutrition.

Looking ahead

Expanding and strengthening nutrition education and anaemia reduction.

Nutrition International’s adolescent health and nutrition programs will continue to focus on expanding and strengthening anaemia reduction efforts with WIFAS and ensuring boys and girls have access to nutrition information to help fuel their growing bodies and minds. Nutrition education for adolescents will be delivered through diverse platforms, channels and partnerships, including schools, communities, and digitally. Re-establishing and strengthening school-based programs will be complemented by efforts to build in resiliency and support youth-responsive, community-based options to reach adolescents with services and information, especially for those in vulnerable situations. Our programs will also use nutrition as an entry-point to gender equality issues – including early marriage, adolescent pregnancy, menstrual health barriers, harmful social norms and gender-based violence – that hold girls back from access to school and participating fully in communities. We will continue to support the addition of WIFAS to the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List to increase availability and overcome procurement challenges faced by Ministries of Health. We will advocate for increased prioritization of adolescent nutrition at all levels and give voice to youth champions.