Report: Addressing NCDs in Adolescence
The Economist Intelligence Unit released a report on addressing Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the adolescent population. The report looks at challenges targeting NCD prevention among the adolescent population, by looking at the disease burden within the 10-24 age group, as well as the main risk factors and impact of environmental dynamics.
The findings of the report are based on desk research and ten in-depth interviews with healthcare experts and those working with non-governmental organisations within the target group.
Key findings in the report are as follows:
- Political will is half the battle
Many low-income countries are doing well at addressing some of the risk factors for NCDs, despite their lack of financial resources. At the same time, wealthier countries earn low to middling scores in many of the categories. Political will on the part of national leaders and the initiation of projects that operate across a number of sectors—health, education and housing—are as likely a predictor of success as national income.
- Policy making should include young people
In order to determine how best to talk with adolescents, young people need to have a seat at the policy table, and to be actively involved in establishing programmes and campaigns that will be directed at their peers. Examples are, Women Deliver and the WHO’s Youth Leaders Network. Mechanisms to effectively and authentically engage these youth advocates need to be put in place, so that they can represent the broad spectrum of their age group.
- Multi-sector approaches to NCDs work best
While standalone programmes can be useful for agenda-setting, efforts to confront NCDs in the adolescent population are most effective when they are embedded in a broad-based public health programme. In addition, initiatives need to go where young people find it easiest to access them, whether that is comprehensive wrap-around services at schools or in the community.
- More attention should be devoted to the social determinants of health (SDH)
The SDH are a key element of growing NCD rates. Addressing risk factors in adolescents will require governments to look at the entire environment young people are living in, including the food they eat, the areas they live in and the air they breathe. A willingness for governments, NGOs and companies to work together as partners is crucial.
The interventions with the best evidence base for improving diets and reducing use of tobacco and alcohol in adolescence entail both taxation and regulation of sugar-sweetened beverages and high-fat food, restrictions on advertising, and imposition of age limits. A willingness for governments, NGOs and companies to work together as partners is crucial.
- More data are needed
Despite the amount of research done on the links between nutrition and obesity, the evidence for anti-obesity campaigns is still mixed. For other NCD risk factors, such as sexual and reproductive health and mental health, the data are even scarcer. Disaggregating data in individual age bands within the broader adolescent group could also help to pinpoint where the focus of different interventions should be. More demonstration projects will be necessary, and policymakers should look to best-practice interventions in one area for ideas that can be replicated elsewhere.