Press Release

The Lancet: Investing in adolescent health, education could bring tenfold economic benefit

19 April 2017

UNITED NATIONS, New York, 19 April 2017 – Improving the physical, sexual and mental health of adolescents aged 10-19 years, at the cost of about $4.60 per person per year, could bring a tenfold economic benefit by averting more than 12 million adolescent deaths and preventing more than 30 million unwanted pregnancies in adolescents.

Similarly, programmes to reduce child marriage, at about $3.80 per person, can bring an almost sixfold return on investment and cut child marriage by around a third.

These findings, amongst others, are published in The Lancet on the eve of the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington D.C., where finance and development leaders from 188 countries will discuss the critical need to invest in adolescents.

“Investing in young people is in everyone’s long-term and strategic interest,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “Small investments in empowering and protecting the world's over a billion adolescents can bring a tenfold return, or sometimes even more. Our pioneering research must now be seen by policymakers, and used to chart the world’s way forward.”

The study published today was led by authors from Australia’s Victoria University, the University of Melbourne, and UNFPA. Its authors calculate the economic and social impact of health interventions to improve adolescent health services and expand HPV vaccinations, amongst others. They also calculate the impact of programmes to reduce child marriage and intimate- partner violence, improve school attendance and educational quality.

 “Some of the best investments in adolescent health and well-being lie outside the health sector – tackling child marriage, reducing road injuries and improving education,” says lead author Peter Sheehan, Victoria University. “There is little doubt that the actions outlined in our study could be delivered on a large scale in countries, transforming the lives of boys and girls around the world. The economic and social impacts of investments in adolescent health and well-being are high by any standards, and are among the best investments that the global community can make to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The total cost till 2030 of all of the interventions studied, except for education, is estimated at $524 billion, equivalent to about $6.70 per person per year. For education, the overall total is estimated at $1.77 trillion, or about $22.60 per person per year. Overall, the total annual investment across all programmes amounts to 0.20% of the global gross domestic product.

Media Contacts:
For interviews with a representative of UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund, please contact Eddie Wright: +1 212 297 2717 ewright@unfpa.org.

For interviews with Peter Sheehan, Victoria University, please contact him directly: +61 3 99191341 peter.sheehan@vu.edu.au.

For interviews with George Patton, University of Melbourne, please contact him directly: george.patton@rch.org.au.

For embargoed access to the paper, please contact Eddie Wright: +1 212 297 2717 ewright@unfpa.org

If you wish to provide a link for your readers, please use the following, which will go live at the time the embargo ends: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)30872-3/fulltext?elsca1=tlpr

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