Today, there are almost 1.6 billion young people aged between 12 and 24 in the world1. They hold the future in their hands, but their behaviours and the environments in which they grow up put their health at risk. Our Young Health Programme (YHP) aims to change that and help the next generation grow into healthy adults.

The YHP is a disease prevention programme that works with expert organisations around the world to combine research, advocacy and on-the-ground programmes to improve the health and life chances of young people. 

Our focus is on reducing risk behaviours such as smoking, the harmful use of alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise that can lead to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancers and respiratory and heart diseases in later life. Our approach is based on exploring the science and learning and innovating in this complex area.

We are committed to ensuring that young people have a voice in identifying their health needs, in planning and delivering solutions, and in innovating and experimenting to advance practice.

The Young Health Programme is AstraZeneca’s global community investment initiative, and staff provide volunteer support for a number of the programmes.

Ten years of the YHP

Why focus on adolescents?

Researchers estimate that 70% of premature deaths in adults can be linked back to behaviours that started in adolescence2. These habits once formed can be hard to change. For example 88% of adults in the USA who smoke daily report that they started smoking by the age of 183, and people who were obese or overweight in their teens are likely to become obese or overweight adults. Addressing these behaviours when young can be far more effective than later in life. Read our priorities for making this happen.

In 2012 young people aged 12–24 years, comprised almost a quarter of the world’s population.  In many low and middle-income countries (LMICs), this age group often makes up a much larger proportion.

These young people are often not a priority area for health services or research, although their life choices and behaviours will have a huge impact on the future health and success of the nations in which they live.

Why focus on NCDs?

NCDs are by far the greatest cause of premature death and disability globally. NCDs are chronic and progressive and are no longer diseases of ageing populations.  Increasingly frequently we see diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and respiratory conditions presenting in young adults. 

In 2012 more than two thirds (68%) of the world’s deaths were caused by NCDs, including over half of all deaths under 704. In 2015, people suffered 1.5 billion days of disabling ill health as a result of NCDs, more than half of the total5.

If risk behaviours such as smoking, the harmful use of alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise, and the underlying psychosocial conditions, can be effectively reduced when young this should have a major positive effect on the health of individuals, and the societies in which they live, in later years. This can be achieved through public health activities, lifestyle programming and health promotion.

  • Programmes

    Working on-the-ground to tailor prevention programmes to community needs

  • Research

    Filling the gaps in evidence to support a call for prevention programming

  • Advocacy

    Working globally and locally to put adolescent health on the policy agenda

Find helpful resources


1. United Nations, 2012, World Population Monitoring Adolescents and Youth,

2. Sawyer S, Afifi R, Bearinger L, Blakemore S-J, Dick B, Ezeh A, Patton G, 2012, Adolescence: a foundation for future health, Lancet

3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General.

4. WHO, 2014, Global Status Report on Non-Communicable Diseases

5. WHO, Disease Burden and Mortality Estimates 2000-2012, Global Summary estimates.