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 up to 20 times higher than that in countries with the lowest rate. Every year, too many children in the Region die before the age of 5 – 52% of them in the first month of life.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. They set the global direction for 17 development goals, one of which – SDG 3 – focuses on health.

Also known as the Global Goals, the SDGs are part of a comprehensive agenda framing global sustainable development for the next 15 years. They build upon, and extend, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), tackling the MDGs’ “unfinished business” by continuing the fight against poverty and hunger, but also focusing on human rights for all and on the empowerment of women and girls as part of the push to achieve gender equality.

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 that can reach them.

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

WHO/Europe’s approach is to strengthen health systems and focus on measurable results, designing and implementing policies based on evidence.
To ensure that every child has every opportunity to live a healthy and meaningful life, European Member States adopted “Investing in children: the European child and adolescent health strategy 2015–2020” in September 2014 at the 64th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. The strategy recommends adopting a life-course approach, which recognizes that adult health and illness are rooted in health and experiences in previous stages of the life-course.