Building the Foundations for Sustainable Development: A Case for Global Investment in the Capabilities of Adolescents

December 2017 - Structural Prevention

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Sheehan, P., Sweeny, K., Rasmussen, B., et al. The Lancet (April 2017), 390: 1792–806, doi:10.1016/ S0140-6736(17)30872-3.

This study examined investments in adolescent interventions in low-, middle-, and high-income countries using modeling techniques to identify costs and returns on the investments. The authors modeled 66 adolescent health interventions, with an annual cost of US$4.50 per participant, over the years 2015–2030. Overall, investments in low-income countries yielded a higher return. Other findings included:

  • Programs that increase girls’ school attendance could reduce child marriage for a cost of $3.80 per individual.
  • Interventions to reduce traffic injuries ranged in cost per individual from $0.30 in low-income countries to $1.00 in upper middle-income countries.
  • Education initiatives (improving school attendance and education quality) cost $22.60 per individual annually, representing only a 30 percent increase from models without improvements.

Overall, adolescent interventions could prevent 7 million adolescent deaths and 1.5 million cases of adolescent disability. Increasing contraceptive availability would prevent 33.9 million unintended births. Investments in policy changes for child marriage could reduce child marriage by 29 percent. Educational interventions could improve secondary education achievement by 75.4 percent for girls and 57.7 percent for boys by 2030, leading to a 36.7 percent increase in work productivity. The authors concluded that investments in adolescent interventions yield high rates of returns and result in millions of deaths prevented and increases in healthy life-years.

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