Relative to other ages, this is the largest generation of adolescents and young adults aged 10 to 24 years that the world will ever have. In some low and middle-income countries more than one in three of the total population is a ‘young person’. The rapid improvements in child health and survival in many countries have not been matched by improvements in the health of adolescents and young adults.
This demographic transition is being paralleled by an equally fast epidemiological transition. At the same time as the burden of infectious disease is declining, non-communicable diseases including injuries, mental health, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, diabetes and obesity are increasing dramatically. These conditions commonly have their origins in childhood and adolescence.
These issues were summarised in the 2012 Lancet Series on Adolescent Health. The series also highlighted key limitations in the current global public health response. First, policy makers have yet to respond to the growing case for investment in adolescent health as a foundation for future global health. Second, there is a need for investment in better health information around young people to both ensure their health needs are visible and to monitor investments that we may make in their health. Third, many effective interventions require action outside the health service sector. In particular we need integrated intersectoral initiatives across education, employment, legislation, taxation and health service delivery for effective responses to the major health problems of young people.
THE LANCET COMMISSION ON ADOLESCENT HEALTH AND WELLBEING
The Lancet Commission group first met in London in 2009 to plan the commission’s work. The Commission was established under the leadership of adolescent health specialists at The University of Melbourne (George Patton and Susan Sawyer), The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (David Ross), University College London (Russell Viner) and Columbia University (John Santelli). The Commission has 26 members from 14 countries spanning Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East and North and South America. It brings together disciplines from across public health, economics, political and social science, behavioural science and neuroscience to consider strategies to advance adolescent health. The Commission includes members both at the science/policy interface and young people themselves.
The Commission will consider the next steps needed to implement the available evidence in global adolescent health. To do so at scale will require new models of engagement between health sectors such as education and local communities. The Commission will also consider how health service systems can better engage adolescents and young adults around health and health care. It will also consider opportunities of new IT platforms that have the potential to transform health measurement and health care systems for young people.
The work of the Commission will be organised around six themes:
- Adolescence within the life course
- Promoting health equity and justice for young people
- Increasing global visibility, monitoring and accountability related to young people
- Strengthening protective environments for young people
- Scaling up sustainable and effective actions among young people
- Engaging and empowering young people
Five main Projects have been established to take these 6 themes forward. The aim of the Commission, in addition to specific journal articles, is to produce a coherent narrative and integrated work plan that we anticipate will be published by The Lancet in 2016.