NCDs are especially important for young people, now and in the future. Two thirds of premature deaths in adults are associated with childhood conditions and behaviours, and behaviour associated with NCD risk factors is common in young people: over 150 million young people smoke; 81% adolescents don’t get enough physical activity; 11.7% of adolescents partake in heavy episodic drinking and 41 million children under 5 years old are overweight or obese. Apathy to change current behaviours will add to the current NCD burden, with severe consequences for future populations and their health systems. Today’s youth is tomorrow’s leaders and carers will bear the brunt of these costs, both financially and personally. Youth everywhere therefore have a vested interest in NCD prevention.
Young people have the capacity to add value to solutions for NCDs. As part of the emerging ‘New Power’ crowd, young citizens are more empowered and enthused to participate in shaping their everyday lives, including health, than generations before. Complementary to the technical expertise that older generations’ might offer, the voices of youth may offer new perspectives, media channels and solutions to NCDs. Today’s youth generation are the people who will drive forward the Sustainable Development Goals and transform our societies for the future we want.
Youth have a right to the highest attainable standard of health and well-being. However, too few have access to relevant and reliable health information and to high-quality and youth-friendly health services without facing discrimination or other obstacles. Young people are often targeted by companies advertising unhealthy food, tobacco or alcohol use, and many grow up today in environments that are not favourable to adopting healthy lifestyles, such as participating in sports and balanced and healthy diet. Amongst young people living in low- and middle-income countries, the barriers are even greater.
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