Despite recent progress, the world is at risk of failing to meet child and adolescent health targets, with more than 86 lakh deaths among children and adolescents (aged 0-20 years) recorded in 2019, according to a new series on optimising child and adolescent health and development, published in The Lancet. Stillbirths (23%) and neonatal deaths (28%) together accounted for over half these deaths, while another one-third (32%) of the deaths occured in children between one month and five years of age (see chart).
“By looking at mortality and nutrition from the third trimester of pregnancy until age 20, we can have a more complete understanding of child and adolescent health. Our analysis clearly indicates that the first two years of life are crucial indicators of future health, but that age range is only one piece of the puzzle,” study author Professor Robert Black from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, said in a statement.
The authors of the Lancet series have called on global leaders and policymakers to replace current approaches to child and adolescent health, which are often fragmented by age groups or specific health conditions, to offer comprehensive care that spans nutrition, preventive health, education, economic, and community support across age groups from preconception through age 20.
In a linked comment, World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said, “At this especially perilous moment in history, with conflict and fragility around the world, all countries need to prioritise child and adolescent health, and tailor health and multisectoral programmes to meet their needs and risk factors.”