For over fifty years the US has been a leader in training health providers in the specialty of adolescent health, recognizing adolescence as a unique period of life – the gateway to adulthood – where positive interventions have long lasting benefits for the future health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and countries.
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) is the world's largest and most scientifically prestigious organisation for adolescent health and is based in the US. The International Chapter of SAHM is a group of over 150 leaders in adolescent health (professionals, researchers, educators and policymakers) from 35 countries who are working to improve the health of the world’s 1.8 billion young people. Many of our members have traveled to New Orleans this week to join with our US SAHM colleagues to learn together. The meeting theme is ‘Cultivating Connections’; we are here because we believe that our connections to our colleagues improve and enrich international policy, practice and research for adolescents.
In 2017 many international members voiced concerns about traveling to the SAHM meeting. Some were fearful of being refused entry, some planned to boycott the meeting because of the direction of the policies in the new US administration, and others simply felt they would not be welcomed. This fundamentally compromises a US-based organization that is a global leader in adolescent health.
The international adolescent health community has looked to the US for guidance on adolescent health matters. Progressive policies in the US have undoubtedly helped others to advocate for greater tolerance of diversity and for policies and practices that support healthy adolescent development in their own countries. Beyond the impact within the US on its own youth, rescinding progressive policies will have ripple effects across the international community, and will greatly diminish the influence and reputation of the US as a leader in adolescent health. Recent moves to constrain international agencies receiving US aid monies from offering reproductive health choices have particularly grave implications for the health of girls and young women around the world.
Scientific productivity in the field of adolescent health and health rights has increased over the past thirty years. This evidence base informs and improves teaching and training, and the development of health services, by growing knowledge and technical capacity in the US and beyond. It is important that this trajectory of scientific discovery continues. Science in adolescent health is nonpartisan, has no borders and flourishes with international collaboration. We encourage key players in the Trump administration and the wider US government to engage positively with the adolescent health scientific enterprise, appreciate the importance of international collaborations, advance health policies that are based in evidence and support collaborative working with our global colleagues and experts in the field of adolescent health.