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New series of research methods briefs to strengthen evidence on adolescence

Adolescent Research Briefs Karima, 14, at school in Maradi. When she was 12, her marriage was prevented at the last minute allowing her to finish school. She most enjoys French, biology and history and hopes to become a teacher.

(10 April 2017) The world is home to 1.2 billion adolescents: the largest cohort of this age-group in history. Adolescence is a critical period of cognitive, emotional, physical and sexual development with consequences that stretch far into adulthood. The period also provides a second “window of opportunity” to build on early investments, promote positive behaviours, and offer a second chance to those who fared less well in early childhood.

90 per cent of adolescents live in low- and middle-income countries. Despite an increasing focus on their well-being, comprehensive data collection systems and research for effective interventions are lacking. This is particularly true for younger and disadvantaged adolescents.

Working with Columbia University and experts from the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Well-being UNICEF Innocenti has released a series of briefs providing a much needed review of contemporary research methodologies for adolescent well-being in low- and middle-income countries, covering: indicators and data sources, ethics, research with disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, participatory research, measurement of the social and structural determinants of adolescent health, and adolescent economic strengthening interventions. 

  1. Improving the methodological quality of research in adolescent well-being - This brief introduces the methodological series, outlining key research themes, intervention types, and their associated methodological implications. It makes the case that new understandings from neuroscience have important implications for programming.
  2. Data and indicators to measure adolescent health, social development and well-being - This brief covers the principles of good indicator definition; common use of indicators; examples of indicators for adolescent health and social development; existing global data to describe - and populate indicators of - adolescent health and social development; and how to improve data collection efforts.
  3. Inclusion with protection: Obtaining informed consent when conducting research with adolescents - The brief emphasizes the value of research with adolescents and discusses at length the importance of balancing inclusion and protection, concluding with a set of ethical ground rules and recommendations for research with adolescents and examples on how to apply them.
  4. Research with disadvantaged, vulnerable and/or marginalized adolescents - This brief summarizes the health and well-being inequities experienced by DVMAs and the need for research with this group. It reviews the challenges and barriers to their inclusion in research; shares practical implications and best practices for their inclusion in research; and addresses ethical challenges and approaches to research.
  5. Adolescent participation in research: Innovation, rationale and next steps - This research - led by adolescents themselves - promotes social change and improves community conditions for healthy development. This brief reviews the theoretical and empirical rationales for youth-led participatory action research, its key principles, phases, practical implications and ethical issues.
  6. How to measure enabling and supportive systems for adolescent health - Enabling and protective systems for adolescents are the family, peers and the education and legal systems. This brief reviews the key concepts of social and structural determinants of health and the methodological issues related to their measurement in adolescence.
  7. Methodologies to capture the multidimensional effects of economic strengthening interventions - Aid agencies and non-governmental organizations have begun to include economic strengthening interventions as part of their core programming. This brief presents strategies for examining the multidimensional effects of economic strengthening interventions with a specific focus on the health and well-being of adolescent beneficiaries, highlighting research gaps and opportunities.

The aim of these briefs is to improve efforts to collect rigorous evidence for programmes and policies on adolescent health and well-being. They will assist a wide range of professionals and stakeholders who conduct, commission or interpret research findings to make decisions about programming, policy and advocacy.

This initiative was funded by the UK Department for International Development. The Editors of the series were John Santelli, MD, MPH, Columbia University and Nikola Balvin, PsyD, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti.

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(5 April 2017) Our latest quarterly Innocenti Research Digest|Adolescence synthesizes the latest research findings in adolescent well-being over the first quarter of 2017. Key themes include: the new UN General Comment on the Rights of the Child during adolescence; the risks refugee and migrant children face on the central Mediterranean migration route; and the work of the Know Violence in Childhood: Global Learning Initiative, established as a collective response by individuals from multilateral institutions, non-governmental organizations and funding agencies concerned about the global impact of violence in childhood and the need for investment in effective violence prevention strategies. For a complete look including current links to all the news, upcoming events, resources and latest research resources collected in the digest download here.   We provide a short selection of key resources here:NEWSUN General Comment on the Rights of the Child during Adolescence – In February, the United Nations adopted General Comment No. 20, providing countries with detailed normative guidance on the measures needed to ensure the rights of children during adolescence. This provision helps to raise the profile of adolescence as a period of capacity development, distinct from childhood and adulthood.UNICEF Warns of the Extreme Risks facing Refugee and Migrant Children on the Central Mediterranean Migration Route – Refugee and migrant children routinely suffer sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention, along the central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy, warns UNICEF in this new report. In 2016, children made up nearly 16% of new arrivals in Italy via the central Mediterranean route, and 9 out of 10 children were unaccompanied. Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying – It is estimated that 246 million children and adolescents experience school violence and bullying in some form every year. In response, UNESCO and the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womans University (Seoul, Republic of Korea) launched a report at the International Symposium on School Violence and Bullying, from 17 to 19 January 2017.(Download digest for all news)EVENTS International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH) Conference: Towards health and wellbeing for all adolescents by 2030 – Organizers: International Association for Adolescent Health; Arab Coalition for Adolescent Health; and the Egyptian Society for Adolescent Medicine. Date: 12-14 May 2017 Location: Cairo, Egypt 11th World Congress on Adolescent Health – Organizers: International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH); MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child; and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), with the support of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Date: 27-29 October 2017 Location: New Delhi, India Registration Global Adolescent Health Conference: Unleashing the Power of a Generation – Organizers: Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH); Every Woman Every Child (EWEC); the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH); and the World Health Organization (WHO). Date: 16-17 May 2017 Location: Ottawa, Canada (Download digest to see all event/register)RESOURCESWorld Future Council Good Practice Guide on Protecting Refugee Women and Girls – Profiling more than 30 examples of innovative good practice from 13 different countries, this resource includes case studies on protecting adolescent girls from violence, during their journey and in destination countries. Gulu, Uganda - February 8: Acan Everline Linda at UNIFAT P/S, Gulu Municipality, Gulu District February 8 2011USAID and PEPFAR Positive Youth Development Measurement Toolkit – The Positive Youth Development (PYD) approaches to evaluation help measure the extent to which young people are positively engaged in, and benefit from, interventions focused on their empowerment. UNFPA and WHO Technical Guidance on Adolescent Health – Systematic processes for identifying priorities and actions for adolescents to thrive in their communities, are part of the new technical guidance, developed by the UNFPA and WHO. WHO Fact Sheets on Adolescent Contraceptive Use – Designed to help policy makers and programme planners reduce inequalities in contraceptive service provision, WHO’s new country fact sheets include data from 58 countries on adolescents’ current sources of contraception, methods utilized, and explanations why contraception is not used.Review on Preventing Household Violence in Humanitarian Settings – In this review, the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action and the CPC Learning Network analyze interventions used in humanitarian contexts to prevent violence against women (VAW) and violence against children (VAC).RESEARCHSpecial Issue of Know Violence in Childhood: A global learning initiative – Eds Kumar et al., Journal of Psychology, Health and Medicine, March 2017. This special issue of the Journal of Psychology, Health and Medicine features 15 studies commissioned by the Know Violence learning initiative, focusing on effective interventions to positively impact violence during childhood and adolescence. A review of evidence-based practices to address social norms and violence highlights the importance of combining strategic approaches (e.g. targeting social norms directly, changing attitudes and behaviour to shift social norms), core principles (e.g. using public health frameworks), and intervention strategies (e.g. engaging bystanders, involving stakeholders Towards Gender Equality: The GEMS journey thus far. An Evaluation Report of the Gender Equality Movement in Schools (GEMS) Program in Jharkland – International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), December 2016. An evaluation of the Gender Equality Movement in Schools (GEMS), a curriculum for children aged 12-14 in India, observed significant improvements in the children’s attitudes to gender and violence, the interaction between boys and girls, communication with teachers, and reduced perpetration of violence. The Health Benefits of Secondary Education in Adolescents and Young Adults: An international analysis in 186 low-, middle- and high-income countries from 1990 to 2013 – Viner et al., SSM – Population Health, December 2016. Analysis of global data between 1990 and 2013 reveals that improvements in secondary education have led to substantial health benefits, including decreases in adolescent fertility, HIV prevalence, and mortality rates among young people. Positive health outcomes are greatest amongst young women and those from low-income countries, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Has Child Marriage Declined in sub-Saharan Africa? An analysis of trends in 31 countries - Koski et al., Population and Development Review, February 2017. Decreases in the prevalence of child marriage are concentrated among girls aged 15 -17 years according to a study of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data from 31 sub-Saharan African countries. The study highlights that high levels of child marriage persist throughout much of sub Saharan Africa, despite legislative efforts to prevent the practice. When the Money Runs Out: Do cash transfers have sustained effects on human capital accumulation? – Baird et al., World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 7901, December 2016. According to the findings of a recent study in the Zomba district of Malawi, many of the initial benefits of a pilot two-year cash transfer programme targeting girls aged 13-22 were found to be short term. Significant declines in HIV prevalence, teen pregnancy, and early marriage among recipients of unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) during the programme evaporated quickly two years after the cessation of transfers. Maternal Undernutrition and Childbearing in Adolescence and Offspring Growth and Development: Is adolescence a critical window for interventions against stunting? - Benny et al., Young Lives Working Paper 165, February 2017. Children born to stunted adolescent mothers have a 15% higher chance of being stunted and an 11% higher chance of being underweight than children whose older mothers were not malnourished. According to analysis of longitudinal data on a cohort of children and their mothers from Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam, these differences persist through adolescence. For a complete look including current links to all the news, upcoming events, online courses, resources and latest important research collected in the digest download here.  
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