Most pediatricians would agree with the saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For the 1.2 billion adolescent humans on this planet, a small monetary investment in their health and education would pay enormous dividends down the road, according to a new study from researchers in Australia and the United Nations Populations Fund. Robert Preidt provides the dollars and cents estimate of what such investments in global public health for youth would cost:

Improving the physical, mental and sexual health of kids aged 10 to 19 — at a cost equivalent to US$4.60 per person per year — could result in a 10-fold economic return by preventing 12 million deaths and more than 30 million unwanted pregnancies, the study authors reported.

Investing in teen education at a cost of $22.60 per person each year would generate a 12-fold economic return, and lead to an additional 12 million formal jobs for young adults, the researchers said.

Investing in improved road safety at 60 cents per person per year would result in a sixfold economic return and prevent nearly 500,000 adolescent deaths by 2030, the study suggested. In addition, programs to reduce child marriage, at a cost of $3.80 per person, would provide a 5.7-fold return on investment and could reduce child marriage by around one-third.


In the grand scheme of things, a tiny investment in teen health produces a big bang for the buck, say the authors of the study which was published last week in Lancet:

In the analysis, the authors calculate the economic and social impact of health interventions aimed at improving maternal, newborn and reproductive health services, improved access to treatments for HIV/AIDS, malaria, depression, alcohol dependence and epilepsy, and expansion of HPV vaccinations. They also calculate the impact of programmes to reduce child marriage and interpersonal violence. Education programmes analysed in the study include those aimed at reducing drop-out, providing free school uniforms, better teaching methods and computer, radio and TV assisted learning. Finally, they also calculate the impact of interventions to improve road safety such as helmet and seat belt use, speed compliance, alcohol testing as well as safer roads and improved motor vehicle safety.

…Overall, the total annual investment across all programmes amounts to 0.20% of the global Gross Domestic Product.


That’s small beans for a huge return on investment:

Study co-author George Patton, a professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia, noted that “there are 1.2 billion 10- to 19-year-olds in the world today. Investments to transform health, education, family and legal systems will help improve their physical, cognitive [mental], social, and emotional capabilities.”

According to Patton, “This will generate a triple dividend reducing death and disability in adolescents today, promote health and productivity across the life-course, and because this is the next generation to parent, provide the best possible start to life for the generation to come.

“This generation of young people can transform all our futures. There is no more pressing task in global health than ensuring they have the resources to do so,” he added.


No pressure. The youngest generation seems to have the weight of the world on its shoulders as it faces the most challenging public health issue of humankind’s relatively short residence on the planet. Indeed, investing in education might be the best money ever spent to combat climate change. More on that subject tomorrow on The PediaBlog.


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