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Preventing non-communicable diseases in adolescents and young adults

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer account for 75% of all deaths in the region of the Americas. The risk factors for these NCDs are associated with behaviors that are established during adolescence, including harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy diets. How to prevent or reverse these behaviors at an early age will be the focus of a panel discussion "Laying the Foundation for Healthy and Productive Living: Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases in Adolescents and Youth," organized by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). The discussion will take place today in New York City during the 45th Session of the Commission on Population and Development of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC).

The region of the Americas has the highest proportion of overweight and obese adolescents in the world. Approximately 21% of adolescents in the region are overweight, and 6% are obese. At the same time, adolescent smoking is more common now than ever before, with more young girls starting to smoke than boys. In the Americas, 25% of adolescents aged 13 to 15 smoke. Alcohol use also starts at a young age: in low- and middle-income countries of the Americas, 14% of girls and 18% of boys ages 13 to 15 report alcohol use.

During adolescence and young adulthood, individuals are making choices that will affect their future lives—including their future health status, healthcare costs and, ultimately, longevity. These choices are profoundly shaped by the social and physical environment and the way we live, learn, play and work.

The panel, which will be held at the Turkish Center from 1.15 to 2.45 pm, will address these issues and how to improve adolescents’ quality of life through multisectoral collaboration and scaling-up of evidence-based interventions.

Panelists include Jane Ferguson, Senior Adviser on Adolescent Health, World Health Organization; Dr. Matilde Maddaleno, Senior Advisor, Adolescent Health, Pan American Health Organization; Michelle Davis, PhD, Regional Health Administrator for New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. María Cristina Escobar, Head of Department of Non-communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health of Chile; Krystal Boyea, Youth Ambassador for North America & the Caribbean, International Diabetes Federation; and Dr. Robert Blum, William H. Gates Senior Professor & Chair, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.



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