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The Data-Poor Lives of Adolescents

Will today's adolescents be healthy enough to lead tomorrow's world? To ensure that they are, their age group must be included in more policy discussions – and that means collecting the data needed to guide health-enhancing interventions.

SEATTLE – Data can save lives. Without it, we wouldn’t know that smoking causes lung cancer and coronary disease, that helmets reduce death rates for motorcycle accidents, and that better education for women improves child survival – and much else. Given the importance of reliable data, collecting it must be a high priority.

One area where data collection is particularly inadequate is adolescent health. People aged ten to 24 receive far less attention than other age groups. More broadly, as the new Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing highlights, global health and social policy largely tends to ignore adolescent health.

In many ways, our future depends on the health of our adolescents. In low- and middle-income countries, there are more adolescents than ever before. And their health today will affect their future wellbeing, shaping their ability to earn a living, produce and raise healthy children, care for aging parents, and lead their societies toward peace and prosperity.

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