Child and Adolescent Health

Most children and adolescents in the WHO European Region enjoy a high standard of health and well-being. However, disparities in child health between and within countries persist. The Region includes countries with the lowest infant and child mortality rates in the world, but mortality in countries with the highest rate for children under 5 years is 25 times higher than that in countries with the lowest rate. Every year more than 160 000 children in the European Region die before the age of five, 50% of them in the first month of life.

WHO/Europe supports countries as they try to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) particularly MDGs 4–5, whose aim is to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by 2015.

Much of the morbidity and mortality among children and young people is preventable. Low-cost measures that have been shown to work – whether they target road traffic accidents or poverty – could prevent two thirds of deaths. Children are particularly vulnerable to environmental pollution, and poor environments aggravate socioeconomic disparities in cities. Children and adolescents need clean air, safe housing, nutritious food, clean water and a healthy way of life; they need friendly services that they can reach and can reach them.

Children still die due to preventable causes such as pneumonia and diarrhea and there are warning signs of the return of diseases previously under control, such as diphtheria and tuberculosis; the increase of noncommunicable diseases such as asthma and allergies; and new morbidity from substance abuse, injuries and mental disorders. Further, adverse effects on children’s health result from increasing socioeconomic inequalities across the Region, the consequences of armed conflict and child labour and sexual exploitation.

WHO/Europe’s approach is not to rely on piecemeal measures, but to strengthen health systems and focus on measurable results, designing and implementing policies based on evidence.

To ensure that every child should have every opportunity to live a healthy and meaningful life, the Member States in the WHO European Region have adopted a new strategy “Investing in children: child and adolescent health strategy for Europe 2015–2020” in September 2014 at the WHO Regional Committee.

The strategy recommends adopting a life-course approach that recognizes that adult health and illness are rooted in health and experiences in previous stages of the life-course.