Advocating positive change locally and globally

AstraZeneca’s Young Health Programme combines advocacy with on the ground programmes and research.

Today, adolescents account for 25% of the world’s population. In some Sub-Saharan African countries, adolescents (18 years of age and under) represent more than 50% of the population. Yet adolescent health remains an under-recognised part of the global healthcare agenda. The YHP advocates for the prevention of non-communicable disease (NCD) risk behaviours in adolescents and positions this issue on global and local policy agendas.

To put it simply, we want to put youth on the global health agenda.

Our approach

The YHP advocates for increased investment in prevention during adolescence. Adolescence is a time when risk behaviours such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise often begin. Scientific research has shown that these behaviours, once formed, are hard to change and can lead to major NCDs like type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and respiratory disease, later in life.

NCD related deaths are increasing, especially in low and middle-income countries, and global trends indicate that these risk behaviours are on the rise among young people. However to date, most of the focus in NCD prevention has been in adults.


Examples of how the YHP is advocating positive change globally and locally

Global advocacy

Globally, the YHP participates in targeted public and political health platforms to champion the prioritisation of adolescent health and the inclusion of NCD prevention in global policies and programmes. The YHP has participated in high level political and public health platforms such as the Global Coordination Mechanism on NCDs, NCD Child Conference, United Nations (UN) High-Level Review on NCDs, and various side- events to the World Health Assembly and UNGA. The YHP was invited to lead the Clinton Global Initiative’s NCD Action Network Meetings in 2014 and 2015.

Noncommunicable Disease Prevention and Adolescents

The role of prevention among adolescents has been largely ignored in global NCD declarations and action plans to date. We joined Heartfile, NCD Alliance, NCD Child, Plan International, RTI International, Unicef and the Young Professional Chronic Disease Network to support a policy paper on why this much change.

Local advocacy

The YHP supports advocacy coalitions to collaborate and address the NCD agenda affecting children and youth in their country. Through NCD Child, the YHP has supported a series of regional advocacy workshops engaging national governments, national child health leaders and youth serving NGOs in Peru, India, Kenya and Canada. Working with the NGO, ‘Rise UP’, we are collaborating to improve young people’s health and welfare in Kenya by empowering visionary Kenyan civil society advocates and strong local organisations working to combat the impacts of NCDs.

Youth engagement in local policies

The YHP countries continue to work with NGO partners to promote youth participation in the revision of local health policies and programmes.

YHP Brazil

Young people were, for the first time, invited to comment on the State health plan and have been involved in state and national forums and seminars, where they called for greater youth participation in health policy.

YHP Canada

YHP Canada supports the Health Rights and Responsibilities project with its charitable partner, The Sandbox Project. Through this project, youth from the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health will share evidence-based best practices around research and advocacy roles for young people in a health context.

Evidence of positive change

In the last five years, the global community has increased its focus on adolescent health as a critical stage for future life health and for the prevention of NCDs.

For example:

  • Adolescent health and NCD prevention have been called out by UNICEF in the 2015 UNICEF agenda
  • 2015 WHO Global Status Report on NCDs dedicates specific sections to NCD risk behaviours in adolescents
  • The UN Secretary-General's Global Strategy on Women's and Children's Health includes NCD prevention as one of the main adolescent health issues
  • The WHO has a Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity

These milestones, although not attributable to the YHP efforts alone, highlight the raised prioritisation of adolescent health and prevention of unhealthy behaviours on the global NCD agenda. The YHP will continue this work with its partners to ensure that this issue continues to be a priority.

Further information

Explore our other sections

  • 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

  • About

    Explore the background behind YHP and NCDs