Today the world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24; this is the largest generation of young people in history. Gains in child health and survival, nutrition, and infectious disease have resulted in a burgeoning youth population; however, the health of adolescents has received little attention. In the past 50 years, the health of adolescents has seen far less improvement than that of younger children.

“Surely we do not want to save children in their first decade of life only to lose them in the second.” –Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF

 A growing youth population means a growing work force, and higher rates of unemployment.  Poverty, lack of education, migration, natural disasters and political unrest lead to social situations that can devastate the health of adolescents. Adolescents face increasing health disparities; childbirth-related complications are the number one cause of death among adolescent girls ages 15-19. Road traffic accidents, suicide, and infections such as HIV are the leading causes of death among this age group.

“Irrespective of region most adolescent deaths are preventable and thus strongly justify worldwide action to enhance adolescent health.”—Lancet

Now, more than ever, greater attention to the health needs of this growing and unique population is needed.  In April, the Lancet released its second series on adolescent health. This series includes four papers, “Adolescence: a foundation for future health,” “Adolescence and the social determinants of health,” “Worldwide application of prevention science in adolescent health,” and “Health of the world’s adolescents: a synthesis of internationally comparable data.”

This landmark series emphasizes the urgent need to increase attention to adolescent health. Join us over the next few weeks as we share the key messages from these articles and discuss their implications for the sexual and reproductive health of young people.