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Teen generation will be 'world's sickest adults'

London Telegraph

The present generation of children and teenagers will turn into the most obese and infertile adults in the history of mankind, doctors warned yesterday.

The drinking, eating, sexual, drug-taking and smoking habits of adolescents were creating a public health timebomb, they said.

A report, Adolescent Health, published yesterday by the British Medical Association, said that one in 10 teenage girls aged 16-19 had the sexually transmitted disease, chlamydia, which can make women infertile.

A quarter of 15- and 16-year-olds smoked, at least one in five 13- to 16-year-olds was overweight or obese and 11 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds had used drugs in the previous month.

The BMA called on the Government to target the special needs of teenagers, a group that "missed out", being neither children nor adults.

"Young people in Britain are increasingly likely to be overweight, indulge in binge drinking, have a sexually transmitted infection and suffer mental health problems," said Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the head of science and ethics at the BMA.

"It is high time we provided education and health care services that target the specific needs of young people.

"We need to ensure that young people do not fall in the gap between services for children and those designed for adults."

Dr Nathanson said teenagers' behaviour posed "an extraordinary threat to an entire generation".

"It is also a threat to all of us. How can the NHS be funded to deal with that kind of health crisis?

"We can't expect young people to think that far into the future. We have to do some of the thinking for them."

Dr Nathanson said the provision of sexual health services was "woefully inadequate" for young people.

"Access to services is key. Do we really expect a 15-year-old boy with gonorrhoea to take time off school to visit his GP and talk about his sex life?

"Surely it would be better to develop easily accessible services that are suited to his needs."

Dr Russell Viner, a consultant in adolescent medicine at University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, said the lack of services dedicated to young people in Britain was a "scandal".

"The next generation will be the most infertile and the most obese in the history of mankind and it might also have the worst mental health," he said.

The report calls on government departments and agencies to work together to find solutions.

It calls for more education on sex, drugs, alcohol, diet and exercise in schools and in the community through awareness campaigns and parental guidance.

The BMA called for tobacco to be less available, which could involve banning cigarette vending machines and sales in certain types of shop and for alcohol advertising to be banned.

Dr Viner said that adolescent general health clinics, perhaps located near schools, could be created to offer a range of services, including sexual health services, that could be more accessible to teenagers.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "All our health improvement work targets adolescents among other groups. For example, last year we launched a multi-million pound advertising campaign to encourage safe sex among young people.

"Our smoking cessation campaign specifically helps teenage mothers. Overall smoking rates among 11- to 15-year-olds has fallen from 13 per cent in 1996 to 10 per cent in 2002."
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