Young people tend to engage in risky behaviour that may negatively affect their health.  Environmental and social factors contribute to these behaviours which become lifestyles that lead to chronic illnesses.  They are often unaware of the damage that comes with risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol, eating junk food and not being physically active. 

Youth is an important period to enforce healthy living because it is a time when young people go through a lot of physical changes.  Teenagers are affected by poor hygiene, poor sanitation, bad habits and diseases as well as behavioural risks.  Health institutions need to ensure that they train personnel as well as provide professional services so that young people get exposed to the best health care available for them.

Helping the youth make decisions that will positively affect their health and well-being for the future should be every parent’s responsibility.  A variety of means such as schools, youth programmes and training can be used to reach young people.  The youth should be involved in dealing with local and global health problems which affect them and the community at large.  Poor nutritional decisions, obesity, eating disorders, HIV/Aids, STIs and cardiovascular disease are some of the health problems which affect the youth today.

Adolescent eating disorders such as binge eating, anorexia and bulimia are concerns for most parents.  It is important to raise the awareness about eating disorders by breaking the stereotypes that are associated with these disorders.

Parents can help their teenagers lead healthier lifestyles by looking for ways to make their favourite dishes healthier, encouraging healthy eating habits as well as getting involved in physical activities.  The goal for most overweight teens is to reduce their weight gain – however they should not go on a weight reduction diet without consulting a dietician/heath professional first.

Gert Coetzee, Gert Coetzee, Pharmacist and Diet pioneer who founded The Diet Everyone Talks About shares some hints and tips on how we can all contribute towards helping the youth take their health more seriously.

  • Provide care and protection for all young people through a supportive and safe environment created by health services, clinical procedure and health counselling.
  • Teaching young people about the importance of being on a healthy diet as well as being physically active.
  • Encouraging young people not to smoke or indulge in alcohol as well teaching them about the dangers that come with these risky behaviours.
  • Giving young people access to sex education – including information about contraceptives and STI’s.
  • Promoting adolescent reproductive health education counselling services and health policies.