Worldwide investments in teen health could yield significant economic returns, a new study contends.
“Investing in young people is in everyone’s interest,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund. “A small investment in empowering and protecting the world’s over a billion adolescents can bring a 10-fold return, or sometimes even more.”
Improving the physical, mental and sexual health of kids aged 10 to 19 — at a cost equivalent to US$4.60 per person per year — could result in a 10-fold economic return by preventing 12 million deaths and more than 30 million unwanted pregnancies, the study authors reported.
Investing in teen education at a cost of $22.60 per person each year would generate a 12-fold economic return, and lead to an additional 12 million formal jobs for young adults, the researchers said.
Investing in improved road safety at 60 cents per person per year would result in a sixfold economic return and prevent nearly 500,000 adolescent deaths by 2030, the study suggested. In addition, programs to reduce child marriage, at a cost of $3.80 per person, would provide a 5.7-fold return on investment and could reduce child marriage by around one-third.
The report was published April 19 in The Lancet, just before a World Bank meeting in Washington, D.C., where finance and development leaders from 188 countries will discuss the need to invest in teens.
Study lead author Peter Sheehan said, “Some of the best investments in adolescent health and well-being lie outside the health sector — tackling child marriage, reducing road injuries and improving education.
“There is little doubt that the actions outlined in our study could be delivered on a large scale in countries, transforming the lives of boys and girls around the world,” he added in a journal news release.
Sheehan is a professor at Victoria University in Australia.
Study co-author George Patton, a professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia, noted that “there are 1.2 billion 10- to 19-year-olds in the world today. Investments to transform health, education, family and legal systems will help improve their physical, cognitive [mental], social, and emotional capabilities.”
According to Patton, “This will generate a triple dividend reducing death and disability in adolescents today, promote health and productivity across the life-course, and because this is the next generation to parent, provide the best possible start to life for the generation to come.
“This generation of young people can transform all our futures. There is no more pressing task in global health than ensuring they have the resources to do so,” he added.
Osotimehin concluded, “Our pioneering research must now be seen by policy makers, and used to chart the way forward.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on teen health.