The World Health Assembly has given a powerful endorsement to new strategic directions for child and adolescent health. The strategy brings together crucial elements to reduce childhood deaths and long term disability. It also aims to reduce the 1.4 million adolescent deaths each year.
Last year, the number of children and adolescents who died was double the total number of adult deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.// In 2000 10.8 million children under five years old died, over half of them from just five preventable communicable diseases and malnutrition. 99% of these deaths are in developing countries.
"This strong support and reinforced commitment by the Member States to strengthen child and adolescent health comes at a crucial time in our efforts to save the lives of millions of children" says Dr Tomris Turmen, Executive Director of Family and Community Health at WHO.
In addition to highlighting the urgent need to reduce child mortality the strategy also focuses on adolescents. There are 1.2 billion adolescents world wide who face specific health threats such as HIV/AIDS, tobacco and alcohol use, depression, suicide and violence. The impact of these health problems is dramatic. Each day among adolescents there are 6000 new HIV infections, 45,000 babies born, 40,000 young people who start using tobacco, 10,000 attempted suicides with 250 deaths, 1,400 deaths from injuries and 16,000 girls who are sexually abused.
An important new element of the strategy is the adoption of a life course approach to child and adolescent health. This recognizes that the quality of life at early ages is important not only for immediate wellbeing, but also for health and development later in life and, given the crucial links between maternal, neonatal and child health, for the health of future generations.
Seven areas have been identified as priorities for future action:
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