Adolescent Theme

Adolescents and young people achieving healthy transitions

Teenagers on bus in India

What is the A theme about?

This theme focuses on the health of adolescents and young people. There are four main reasons why public health should focus on this group:

Neglected group. Young people aged 10-24 are often neglected in health interventions, despite both the importance of supporting young adults to realise their potential, and the key role of health and health behaviours in young adulthood in shaping health in later life.

Demographic transition. In most high and middle income countries there are more adolescents (10-19 years) than children (0-9 years). Low income countries are rapidly approaching a similar demographic balance, with more than one in four of the total population aged 10-19 owing to falling fertility rates and dramatic recent improvements in child survival. This provides a one-time potential economic dividend to countries whose populations are replete with young adults going through their most productive period of life. But to realise this potential, those young adults must be healthy, educated and employed.

Epidemiological transition. The burden from infectious diseases is decreasing, especially in young children. On the other hand, noncommunicable health conditions with origins in children and young people such as injuries, mental ill health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity have been increasing dramatically.

Effective interventions. We have an increasing range of effective interventions to prevent these illnesses through taking action during childhood and adolescence.

What does the A theme do?

Staff from across the School’s three faculties are engaged in research and teaching to improve the health and well-being of young people, and to help them realise their potential. Work in the A theme ranges from descriptive quantitative and qualitative research on the burden of disease in this age range, to in-depth anthropological and sociological enquiries into social aspects of young people’s health and transitions, to development, testing and evaluation of novel interventions.

Disciplines cover a wide spectrum across the social, behavioural, epidemiological and clinical sciences. Topic areas cover the full range of the key health issues of young people, including sexual and reproductive health, use of tobacco, alcohol and other psychoactive drugs, injuries, mental health, nutrition and exercise, and infectious diseases.

The A theme organises seminars and workshops related to the health of adolescents and young people (often jointly with the Child and Adolescent Health Centre in University College London) and creates opportunities for staff to develop multidisciplinary collaborations.