Most of the 2.6 million deaths of young people each year are preventable, according to a new study supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The main causes of deaths in the 10-24 age group were road traffic accidents, complications during pregnancy and child birth, suicide, violence, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.
The study, to be published in the Lancet, found that 97% of these deaths were taking place in low and middle- income countries. "Young people ... often fall through the cracks," said Daisy Mafubelu, WHO's expert for family and community health. She said it was important to improve their access to information and services "and help young people avoid risky behaviours that can lead to death."
There are an estimated 1.8 billion people that fall into this age group, accounting for 30% of the world's population. Road traffic accidents could be avoided through more appropriate speed limits, strict enforcement of drunk-driving laws and by the use of helmets and safety belts, the WHO said.
Moreover, young people need sex education, condoms and other contraceptives, the ability to perform safe abortions, access to antenatal and obstetric services and testing and care for HIV/Aids.
The study also led the researchers to conclude that suicide and other violence could be prevented through life-skills training and positive parental involvement in young people's lives. Furthermore, the WHO recommended that access to lethal means of all kinds, including guns and toxins, should be reduced, along with limiting the consumption of alcohol.
There also needed to be better care and support for those exposed to child abuse, youth violence, and sexual assault, to help young people deal with the immediate and long-term consequences of these traumatic events. – (Sapa, September 2009)
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