Children in the developed world

1 in 5 children in high-income countries lives in relative income poverty and an average of 1 in 8 faces food insecurity, according to the latest report by the UNICEF Office of Research.

This report ‘Building the Future: children and the sustainable development goals in rich countries’ is the first report to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified as most important for child well-being. It ranks countries based on their performance and details the challenges and opportunities that advanced economies face in achieving global commitments to children.

To download the report on the status of children in high-income countries from the unicef-irc.org website

Feeling low in adolescence

About half of all mental health problems in adulthood have their onset during or before adolescence. Improving resilience to mental illness among young people is very important, as poor mental health in adolescence is linked to unemployment, crime, increased rates of smoking, drug use, obesity and future mental ill health. Support and early interventions designed to promote well-being are key to building such resilience.

Feeling low from time to time can be normal for adolescents. However, regular and prolonged periods of low mood can progress to depression and negatively impact long-term health, well-being and development.

Being in good emotional and physical health enables young people to deal with the challenges of adolescence and eases their transition into adulthood. Positive mental well-being in childhood is associated with increased social competence and good coping strategies that lead to more positive outcomes in adulthood. Addressing low feelings among young people and teaching them coping mechanisms that promote resilience is vital to protecting and promoting their mental health.

For more information about adolescents and mental health on the euro.who.int website

Over 1.2 million adolescents die every year, nearly all preventable

Across the world, more than 3,000 adolescents die every day from largely preventable causes according to a report from the World Health Organisation.

Road traffic injuries, lower respiratory infections, and suicide are the biggest causes of death among adolescents and most of these could be prevented with good health services, education and social support. However, in many cases, adolescents who suffer from mental health disorders, substance use, or poor nutrition cannot obtain critical prevention and care services – either because the services do not exist, or because they do not know about them.

In addition, many behaviours that impact health later in life, such as physical inactivity, poor diet, and risky sexual health behaviours, begin in adolescence.

To read more about preventable adolescent deaths on the who.int website

Controlling speeding drivers

Around 1.25 million people die every year on the world’s roads. Studies indicate that:

  • almost half of all drivers exceed the speed limit
  • drivers who are male, young and under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be involved in speed-related crashes
  • road traffic accidents (RTAs) are the number one cause of death among young people aged 15–29 years
  • RTAs are estimated to cost countries from 3–5% of GDP and push many families into poverty.

‘Managing speed’, a new report from WHO, suggests that excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to 1 in 3 road traffic fatalities worldwide. Measures to address speed prevent road traffic deaths and injuries, make populations healthier, and cities more sustainable.

To read more about speed management to save lives from the who.int website

Measles outbreaks across Europe

Over 500 measles cases were reported for January 2017 in Europe with 85% of them coming from 7 of the 14 endemic countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine). Measles continues to spread within and among European countries, with the potential to cause large outbreaks wherever immunization coverage has dropped below the necessary threshold of 95%.

As the WHO Regional Director for Europe pointed out:   “Today’s travel patterns put no person or country beyond the reach of the measles virus. Outbreaks will continue in Europe, as elsewhere, until every country reaches the level of immunization needed to fully protect their populations.”

Preliminary information for February indicates that the number of new infections is sharply rising. In all of the countries listed above, estimated national immunization coverage with the second dose of measles-containing vaccine is less than the 95% threshold.

For more information about measles in Europe from the euro.who.int website

Youth in Health in Action

The European Solidarity Corps offers young Europeans from 18 to 30 years old the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Aiming for 100,000 placements by 2020, NGOs, Member State authorities and other organisations can offer quality placements for volunteering, traineeships or jobs.

Health is an integral part of this initiative. There are many ways young people could play a part in health projects, making use of their skills be it language, communication, IT or medical skills. If you have ideas and projects which you think could provide young people from the Solidarity Corps with opportunities to learn and demonstrate solidarity, the Corps would like to hear from you.

For more information on the European Solidarity Corps on the ec.europa.eu website

Autism spectrum disorders

According to the latest factsheet from the WHO, 1 in 160 children world-wide has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and for most of them, the condition becomes apparent during the first 5 years of life.

ASD refers to a range of conditions characterised by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language, and a narrow range of interests and activities that are both unique to the individual and carried out repetitively. ASDs begin in childhood and tend to persist into adolescence and adulthood.

For more information about autism spectrum disorders and to download the Parent Skills Training Package on the who.int website

The cost of a polluted environment: 1.7 million child deaths a year

More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments.

Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, according to the WHO.

The top 5 causes of death in children under 5 are:

  • respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke (570,000 children a year)
  • diarrhoea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (361,000 children a year)
  • conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution (270,000 children a year in their first month of life)
  • malaria that could be prevented through environmental actions, such as reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage (200,000 children a year)
  • unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning (200,000 children a year)

For more information on the causes of death for children under 5 from the who.int website

TV and internet marketing to children

The WHO have produced a protocol “Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children via television and the Internet” to help countries in the European Region gather data in a way that will support policy changes.
Most data on the prevalence of food and beverage marketing come from high-income, English-speaking countries,
specifically Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. They show that the marketing of HFSS foods (high in saturated fats, salt and/or sugar) to children is highly prevalent, actively uses persuasive techniques likely to appeal to children and is present across multiple media, including broadcast television and social media online.
Continued monitoring is needed in these countries, to ensure that up-to-date evidence is available to inform and strengthen policy and that policies are adequately evaluated.
More data are urgently needed from other countries, however, to support the domestic policy-making process and to build a more representative global picture of food-marketing activity.
Studies conducted in accordance with this protocol will interest policy-makers, academic researchers, public health
practitioners and advocacy groups in the WHO European Region and worldwide.
To download the protocol on Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children from the euro.who.int website

New school food guidelines aim for pleasant, sustainable dining

Health and education authorities in Finland have issued new guidelines for school food for the first time in a decade. They’re aimed at making lunches more nutritious – and more appealing to youngsters.

The new recommendations call for more emphasis on dining as a calm, pleasant communal experience and on the sustainability of food. This means more serious vegetarian alternatives, as well as more fish and “less red meat, more vegetables, fruit and berries”.

According to the new guidelines, pupils should be allowed at least half an hour to eat, and lunch should be served between around 11 am and noon. Since many schools’ cafeterias may be too cramped for comfortable eating, it is also suggested that schools could experiment with having pupils eat together in their own classrooms, for instance.

For more information about Finland’s new school food guidelines on the yle.fi website