Global Insights

We are committed to supporting ground-breaking research into the development of risk-taking behaviours in adolescence, and how these affect behaviours and the acquisition of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in later life.

The Economist Intelligence Unit undertook research into how ten countries were tackling NCDs in adolescence and what wider lessons could be learned; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, one of the YHP’s founding partners, undertook the Wellbeing of Adolescents in Vulnerable Environments (WAVE) study; and Imperial College, London explored the effect of reducing NCD risk factors in adolescence on premature mortality.


Addressing NCDs in Adolescence - The Economist Intelligence Unit

AstraZeneca commissioned The Economist Intelligence Unit to assess how ten diverse countries around the world were addressing the challenges associated with NCDs among adolescents, as part of AstraZeneca's support for the Young Health Programme.

Addressing non-communicable diseases in adolescence uses NCD scorecards to evaluate efforts in policy, awareness and implementation in the various countries, with a focus on healthy diets, nutrition and physical exercise; alcohol and tobacco; sexual and reproductive health; and mental health. 

The study addressed three high-income countries (Hungary, Saudi Arabia and the US), five middle-income countries (Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa) and two low-income countries (Ethiopia and Sierra Leone). Ethiopia and India stood out for their practical approach to addressing the issues showing how, with relatively modest resources, they could make significant progress on addressing tobacco use and other issues that seem to elude some much wealthier nations.   

Whilst much could be achieved through education, experts interviewed for the report were keen to point out that this alone would be insufficient as the challenges are far more deeply rooted in broader societal issues. As Dr. Stefan Peterson, Chief of the Health Section at UNICEF, put it “We are at risk of falling into blaming the victim, when I think we should focus more on the physical environment and the food environment such as areas they live in and the air they breathe”.

It was also clear that directing policy at young people, rather than developing it with young people, was majorly flawed. As Alyssa Frampton, youth health advocate and public policy student, Canada said “There is a need to develop these policies with young people, not always with model students but with the young people who are going behind the school to smoke.” 

The report sets out in tabular form:

  • Selected social and environmental determinants of health in the ten countries included in the scorecard
  • Policy Scorecards on Preventing Non-Communicable Disease in Youth by
    • Risk factor/health area
    • Policy, awareness and implementation
  • Scorecard indicators on 
    • healthy diets, nutrition and physical exercise
    • alcohol and tobacco
    • sexual and reproductive health
    • mental health

The WAVE Study – Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

The WAVE study broke new ground by attempting to draw comparable health profiles of 15- to 19-year-old youth in similarly impoverished circumstances in five cities across the globe (Baltimore, Ibadan, Johannesburg, New Delhi, and Shanghai).

Young people told us that the things that most affected their health were the cleanliness of their environment and how safe they felt in it.

Studying adolescents in these areas of concentrated poverty is challenging and so respondent-driven sampling was used – probably for the first time in comparative research with marginalised youth. This showed a relationship between the absence of social capital (for example support from school, family, friends and neighbourhoods) and poor physical health. This was also reflected in mental health. The study also showed that, in some settings, disadvantaged urban environments serve as incubators of gender-based violence risk for young women.

WAVE findings have been presented at global summits and congresses, including the World Health Summit 2012 in Berlin; American Public Health Association Meeting 2012; International Association of Adolescent Health World Congress 2013, and were used as the basis for a series of papers published in The Journal of Adolescent Health December 2014. The findings continue to inform our activities.


NCD Risk Factors in Adolescents – Data and Health Impacts – Imperial College London

This Imperial College research pools population-based studies to identify worldwide trends in NCD risk factors in young people and their likely links to premature mortality and morbidity in later life.

The first phase, which focused on obesity, reported in October 2017 and found that the number of obese children and adolescents (aged 5 to 19 years) worldwide has risen tenfold in the past four decades. The report included the first global estimates of mean body mass index (BMI) and underweight prevalence for children and adolescents, and also presented trends in the number of children, adolescents, and adults who were moderately or severely underweight and obese, and thus at risk of adverse health outcomes.

The research concluded that whilst adult mean BMI continued to increase in all regions and sexes there has been a recent flattening of trends in some regions, notably north-western Europe, for adolescents. This must however be set against the rise in mean BMI which has accelerated in east and south Asia for both sexes since around 2000. The study also found that more children and adolescents, especially those in south Asia and central, east and west Africa, are moderately or severely underweight than obese

A further report is in preparation on tobacco use in young people, and a full report drawing the elements together, will follow.


Integrating Health Services for Young People – Population Research Bureau

The Population Research Bureau investigated health systems throughout the world - from Colombia and India to Moldova - to examine how they had been adapted to serve the needs of young people.  The Integrating Health Services for Young People report brings together these findings to provide guidance to policy-makers.


Explore our other sections

  • Programmes

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

  • Advocacy

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

  • About

    Find out about YHP and why the programme came about