Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health

Miriam Temin
October 05, 2009

"The health of adolescent girls is everyone's business. We all need to step up to the plate to embrace this ambitious agenda."—Melinda Gates

Improving the health of adolescent girls in the developing world is the key to improving maternal and child health, reducing the impact of HIV, and accelerating social and economic development.

Start with a Girl: A New Agenda for Global Health sheds light on the realities of girls' health and wellbeing in developing countries, on the links between the health of girls and the prospects for their families, and on the specific actions that will improve health prospects for millions.

This report describes the most prevalent and serious health problems adolescent girls face in developing countries, linking them to a combination of specific public-health risks and social determinants of health. It highlights the diverse ways in which governments and non-governmental organizations have sought—often successfully, albeit on small scale—to break vicious cycles of ill health. Finally, and most importantly, the report lays out an ambitious yet feasible agenda for governments, donors, the private sector, and civil society organizations—complete with estimates of indicative costs.

"By engaging girls and young women . . . NGOs and social businesses can address girls’ health needs while creating productive livelihoods.”—Muhammad Yunus

The report has benefited from input from high-level advisors, including Sarah Brown, Melinda French Gates, Helene D. Gayle, Ashley Judd, Musimbi Kanyoro, Liya Kebede, Sir Michael Marmot, Thoraya Obaid, Joy Phumaphi, Mary Robinson, and Muhammad Yunus.

The following are eight priorities for action:

  1. Implement a comprehensive health agenda for adolescent girls in at least three countries.

  2. Eliminate marriage for girls younger than 18.

  3. Place adolescent girls at the center of international and national action and investment on maternal health.

  4. Focus HIV prevention on adolescent girls.

  5. Make health-system strengthening and monitoring work for girls.

  6. Make secondary-school completion a priority for adolescent girls.

  7. Create an innovation fund for girls’ health.

  8. Increase donor support for adolescent girls’ health.

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