The health of young people has long been of interest to the World Health Organization (WHO) and many governments, but the rate of implementation has been very slow until recently. In the Alma Ata Declaration, for instance, there is hardly a mention of youth. For many years the health of young people has been neglected because they are considered to be less vulnerable than children or older people to the onset of ill-health.
However, the young are now highly- vulnerable to socio-economic conditions, some of which have changed markedly in contemporary times. Despite recognizing the role of mental and social well-being in health development, these aspects seem not to have been adopted by most mainstream health programs.
Any improvements in mental- health seem to have arisen as the incidental result of a successful physical health program and community organization. To date, most existing Adolescent Health Programmes have been selective in nature with emphasis on reproductive health rather than holistic as its approach claimed to be.
Young people’s health is increasingly threatened by new dangers such as drug use/abuse and the growing problem of urban street children. Moreover, urbanization has been growing at a rapid pace in Tanzania. For instance, in 1965 only five percent of the population lived in urban areas. By 1997 twenty-nine percent lived in urban areas and 50 percent of them were in the commercial capital.
In March 2002 the first Inter-African Conference on Adolescent Health was held in Nairobi, Kenya. Unwanted pregnancies, induced- abortion, sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, and family-life education were important features of the agenda for the conference, the future of any society depends largely upon its children. If it is to survive, a society must make adequate provision for their care, nurture, and socialization. Cultural survival depends upon whether the customs and values of that society are transmitted from one generation to the next through the family and other social institutions.