Global funding for adolescent health is lacking t

Even though adolescents make up 26% of the population in developing countries, their health claimed only a meager 1.6% of global development assistance between 2003 and 2016, according to a recently published study by researchers. from Harvard Medical School.

The results, which appear on August 10 in JAMA network open, reveal that very little money has gone to projects focused on some of the most serious causes of adolescent ill health, such as anemia, injuries and depressive disorders. Likewise, little funding has been allocated to support adolescent health projects known for their high return on investment, according to the study.

While the percentage of funding for adolescent health increased from 1.3 percent to 2.2 percent over the period 2003-2016, the relatively low proportion of spending directed at adolescent health – even at its core. highest levels – suggests adolescent health is not getting attention. it deserves the global community, the researchers said.

“Adolescence is a phase of rapid physical, cognitive and emotional growth that shapes the health of adults for decades to come,” said lead author of the study, Chunling Lu, assistant professor of global health and medicine. social at Harvard Medical School. “Given the importance of young people to the future well-being and economic development of low- and middle-income countries, international donors need to reconsider both the levels and patterns of investment they make. “

The largest amount of development funding for adolescent health has been targeted on HIV and AIDS, followed by interpersonal violence, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases, all of which are among the leading causes of illness and disease. disability in adolescents. However, other major causes of the disease burden in developing countries, including anemia, traffic accidents and depressive disorders, have been largely ignored by donors, the researchers found. Severely underfunded areas such as mental health and injury prevention are also known to generate particularly high cost-benefit ratios, investigators said.

A growing body of research has shown how essential growth, health and development that occurs during adolescence is in setting the stage for lifelong health. As a result, adolescent health is now a priority in many new international planning guidelines, the researchers said. The rapidly increasing adolescent population currently growing up in developing countries requires more investment in adolescent health, the team added.

“The international donor community has been ‘asleep at the wheel’ failing to keep pace with changing demographic and health needs,” said co-researcher George Patton, Center for Adolescent Health at Murdoch Children’s. Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. “Despite support for the United Nations ‘Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, international agency investments have so far failed to make serious investments in the world’s youth. ”

To determine whether spending patterns were aligned with these new priorities, the researchers assessed the amount of development assistance that went to adolescent health projects in 132 developing countries between 2003 and 2015. In the study, adolescents were defined as those between the ages of 10 and 24.

The results suggest that current spending levels are not sufficient to meet the health needs of adolescents in many low- and middle-income countries, the researchers said. Lu noted that a few simple steps could help dramatically improve the situation: While investments in HIV / AIDS should undoubtedly be sustained, donors should also consider investments in other areas, especially those that would dramatically reduce the burden of disease in adolescents with costs. effective interventions. In addition, for places and types of interventions where cost-effectiveness data are not available, there is an urgent need for investment in research to assess the impact of interventions. Evidence from such studies would be invaluable in guiding future resource allocations for adolescent health relative to other areas of need, said Lu, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Adolescence is a critical time in life to build the health of the next generation,” Lu said. “Our study shows that scaling up adolescent health will require a greater allocation of development funds. for adolescent health in general and better targeting of the main causes of the burden of disease in adolescents. It is a worthwhile investment. “


This study was led by Zhihui Li, a doctoral student at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

The research was funded by the Brigham and Women’s and Ronda Stryker Funds of Harvard Medical School.

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