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UNICEF calls for increased public investment in adolescent health to respond to high risk behaviours among student

Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Country Representative and Mr. Aziz Polozani, Director of the National Institute for Public Health
© UNICEF 2009
Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Country Representative and Mr. Aziz Polozani, Director of the National Institute for Public Health.

SKOPJE 26 January 2009: At a press conference to launch the findings of the National School Based Health Survey, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative, Mr. Sheldon Yett called for increased public investment in adolescent health and better enforcement of existing laws and policies to address high risk behaviours among adolescents in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The survey conducted among school children aged 13-15, reveals significantly high prevalence of alcohol use and exposure to tobacco, as well as high levels of injuries and violence in schools.
“The habits and behaviors that start in the adolescent years or earlier often ripple forward through life, profoundly influence adult health and the communities in which we live,” said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Country Representative. “It is more effective - and in the long term less expensive –to address these issues early on,” Mr. Yett said. He added that there are many good laws and policies in place but in order for them to be effective in curbing violence in schools or curbing the sales of alcohol or cigarettes to young people, they need to be enforced. “These issues can only be effectively tackled if the there is open discussion of the issues and families and communities themselves are involved in resolving them,” the UNICEF Representative added.  

The survey revealed that 36 per cent of students aged 13-15 had at least one drink containing alcohol in the thirty days before being surveyed, with significantly higher rates for boys than girls. Exposure to tobacco was also high and increasing with 11% per cent students having smoked cigarettes on one or more days during the thirty days before being surveyed and some 70 percent reported other people smoking in their presence.  A 2002 study among the same age group found that 8% of students in the country smoked. 

Responding to the high level of violence and incidence of injury, Mr. Yett emphasised that, “For most adolescents, school is the most important setting outside of the family. We need to support teachers, and school administrators in providing a protective environment.” The survey revealed that during the year prior to being surveyed, one in every three students reported being involved in physical fight and five percent of the students said they had brought a gun or other weapon to school. The survey indicated that rates of school-based violence in the country are among the highest in Europe. 

While the study had been conducted in previous years by non-governmental organisations, this is the first time the survey was conduced by the National Institute for Public Health and was made possible through financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The study responds to a lack of systematic surveillance of health risk behaviors among adolescents in the country. The Ministry of Health is using the study to develop baselines key priority areas for the Adolescent Health Strategy (2008-2013).

The survey follows a standard methodology that has been used in 79 countries worldwide. The methodology was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with UNICEF, UNESCO, and UNAIDS; and with technical assistance from the US Centers for Disease Control. (CDC)

For additional information please contact:

Suzie Pappas Capovska, Communications Officer
UNICEF Skopje (02) 3231-150,




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