New WHO progress report reveals the major health challenges currently facing children and adolescents in Europe

Anne Sturm Guerrand

The latest WHO progress report “Situation of child and adolescent health in Europe” gives an overview of child and adolescent health in the WHO European Region, revealing a number of issues of concern.

Mental health, obesity, and sexual and reproductive health

The report focuses on several key areas where health outcomes are falling short, and provides insight into ways in which countries can improve the situation for their children and adolescents. Areas in focus include mental health, overweight/obesity and adolescent risk-taking behaviour.

The report shows, for example, that:

  • mental health remains a neglected subject – only one quarter of countries are collecting data on the number of children treated by a mental health professional;
  • half of countries do not regulate the marketing of food to children, despite the fact that childhood obesity rates are high across the Region and physical activity rates are low;
  • almost half of countries have no policy that affects the availability of unhealthy foods at school;
  • 2 in 5 girls and 1 in 3 boys who are having sex do not protect themselves; and
  • one third of countries do not offer legal access to contraception without parental consent for those under 18 years of age.

Child and adolescent health strategy for the Region

WHO/Europe developed the European child and adolescent health strategy 2015–2020, which all 53 European Member States adopted in 2014. Its uptake is monitored through a survey sent to ministries of health. Efforts to implement the strategy have varied across the Region; the new report shows what countries have accomplished.