Nav: Home

Global funding for adolescent health misses the target

August 10, 2018

Even though adolescents make up 26 percent of the population in developing countries, their health claimed a meager 1.6 percent of global development assistance between 2003 and 2016, according to a newly published study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School.

The findings, which appear Aug. 10 in JAMA Network Open, reveal that very little money went to projects geared toward some of the most serious causes of poor adolescent health, such as anemia, injuries and depressive disorders. Similarly, little funding went to support health projects for adolescents known to yield high return on investment, the study found.

While the percentage of funding for adolescent health increased from 1.3 percent to 2.2 percent during the 2003-2016 timeframe, the relatively small proportion of spending destined for adolescent health--even at its highest levels--suggests that adolescent health does not command the attention it deserves from the global community, the researchers said.

"Adolescence is a phase of rapid physical, cognitive and emotional growth that shapes adult health for decades to come," said study senior author Chunling Lu, assistant professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Considering how important young people are for the future well-being and economic development of low- and middle-income countries, international donors need to reconsider both the levels and the patterns of investments that they are making."

The largest amount of development funding for adolescent health was targeted at HIV and AIDS, followed by interpersonal violence, tuberculosis and diarrheal disease, all of which are among the leading causes of illness and disability for adolescents. However, other leading causes of disease burden in the developing world, including anemia, road injuries and depressive disorders, were largely overlooked by donors, the researchers found. Seriously underfunded areas such as mental health and injury prevention are also known to yield particularly high cost-benefit ratios, the investigators said.

A growing body of research has shown just how critical the growth, health and development that occur during adolescence are to setting the stage for lifelong health. As a result, adolescent health is now a priority in many new international planning guidelines, the researchers said. The rapidly increasing population of adolescents currently growing up in developing countries further demands greater investment in adolescent health, the team added.

"The international donor community has been 'asleep at the wheel' in failing to keep pace with changing demography and health needs," said co-investigator George Patton, of the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. "Despite supporting the United Nations' 'Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents Health,' international investment from agencies have so far failed to make serious investments in the world's young people."

To determine whether spending patterns were aligned with these new priorities, the researchers assessed how much development assistance has been disbursed to projects for adolescent health in 132 developing countries between 2003 and 2015. For the purposes of the study, adolescents were defined as those between the ages of 10 and 24.

The findings suggest that current spending levels are not sufficient to meet the adolescent health needs of many low- and middle-income countries, the researchers said. Lu noted that a few simple steps could help to greatly improve the situation: While investments in HIV/AIDS should undoubtedly be maintained, donors should also consider investments in other areas, especially those that would greatly lessen the burden of disease among adolescents with cost-effective interventions. In addition, for places and types of interventions where cost effectiveness data are not available, there is an acute need for investment in research to assess the impact of interventions. Evidence from such studies would be invaluable in guiding future resource allocations for adolescent health in comparison to other areas of need, said Lu, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"Adolescence is a critical time of life to build the health of the next generation," said Lu. "Our study shows that taking adolescent health to scale will require greater allocation of development funds for adolescent health in general and better targeting toward the major causes of disease burden among adolescents. It's an investment well worth making."
-end-
This study was led by Zhihui Li, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The research was supported the Brigham and Women's and the Ronda Stryker Funds at Harvard Medical School.

Harvard Medical School

Related Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Generous health insurance plans encourage overtreatment, but may not improve health
Offering comprehensive health insurance plans with low deductibles and co-pay in exchange for higher annual premiums seems like a good value for the risk averse, and a profitable product for insurance companies.
The Lancet Planetary Health: Food, climate, greenhouse gas emissions and health
Increasing temperatures, water scarcity, availability of agricultural land, biodiversity loss and climate change threaten to reverse health gains seen over the last century.
With health insurance at risk, community health centers face cut-backs
Repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, combined with a failure to renew critical funding streams, would result in catastrophic funding losses for community health centers-forcing these safety net providers to cut back on services, lay off staff or shut down clinical sites, according to a report published today.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Tailored preventive oral health intervention improves dental health among elderly
A tailored preventive oral health intervention significantly improved the cleanliness of teeth and dentures among elderly home care clients.
Study finds that people are attracted to outward signs of health, not actual health
Findings published in the journal Behavioral Ecology reveal that skin with yellow and red pigments is perceived as more attractive in Caucasian males, but this skin coloring does not necessarily signal actual good health.
In the January Health Affairs: Brazil's primary health care expansion
The January issue of Health Affairs includes a study that explores a much-discussed issue in global health: the role of governance in improving health, which is widely recognized as necessary but is difficult to tie to actual outcomes.
University of Rochester and West Health Collaborate on d.health Summit 2017
In collaboration with West Health, the University of Rochester is hosting the third annual d.health Summit, a forum for health care and technology leaders, entrepreneurs, senior care advocates and policymakers to exchange ideas, create new partnerships, and foster disruptive technological and process innovations to improve the lives of the nation's aging population.
Study links health literacy to higher levels of health insurance coverage
The federal Affordable Care Act is intended to make it easier for individuals to buy health insurance, but are the uninsured equipped to navigate the choices faced in the insurance marketplace?

Related Health Reading:

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
by Michael Greger M.D. (Author), Gene Stone (Author)

Physical Examination and Health Assessment
by Carolyn Jarvis PhD APN CNP (Author)

Essentials of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: Concepts of Care in Evidence-Based Practice
by Mary C. Townsend DSN PMHCNS-BC (Author), Karyn I. Morgan RN MSN APRN CNS (Author)

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Review and Resource Manual, 4th Edition
by Kathryn Johnson (Author), Dawn Vanderhoef (Author)

Medical Terminology for Health Professions, Spiral bound Version
by Ann Ehrlich (Author), Carol L. Schroeder (Author), Laura Ehrlich (Author), Katrina A. Schroeder (Author)

Mayo Clinic Family Health Book
by Scott C. Litin M.D. (Editor)

Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: Concepts of Care in Evidence-Based Practice
by Mary C. Townsend DSN PMHCNS-BC (Author), Karyn I. Morgan RN MSN APRN CNS (Author)

Varcarolis' Foundations of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing: A Clinical Approach
by Margaret Jordan Halter PhD APRN (Author)

Laboratory Manual for Physical Examination & Health Assessment
by Carolyn Jarvis PhD APN CNP (Author)

Women's Gynecologic Health
by Kerri Durnell Schuiling (Author), Frances E. Likis (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Circular
We're told if the economy is growing, and if we keep producing, that's a good thing. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers explore circular systems that regenerate and re-use what we already have. Guests include economist Kate Raworth, environmental activist Tristram Stuart, landscape architect Kate Orff, entrepreneur David Katz, and graphic designer Jessi Arrington.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#503 Postpartum Blues (Rebroadcast)
When a woman gives birth, it seems like everyone wants to know how the baby is doing. What does it weigh? Is it breathing right? Did it cry? But it turns out that, in the United States, we're not doing to great at asking how the mom, who just pushed something the size of a pot roast out of something the size of a Cheerio, is doing. This week we talk to anthropologist Kate Clancy about her postpartum experience and how it is becoming distressingly common, and we speak with Julie Wiebe about prolapse, what it is and how it's...