Child and adolescent health and well-being

Every child has the right to grow up healthy and strong.

An adolescent girl smiles as she carries a young boy on her hip.
UNICEF/UN0149419/Sokhin

Over the past two decades, the world has made tremendous progress improving child and adolescent health and well-being. But challenges persist. Communicable diseases continue to endanger children and adolescents across the globe – and new health problems are on the rise, especially in areas affected by poverty. 

Mental health conditions, developmental delays and disabilities, injuries and non-communicable diseases – including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, preventable cancers and chronic respiratory diseases – pose threats to children and adolescents worldwide. Unhealthy diets and environmental hazards such as air pollution also prevent millions of children and adolescents from surviving and thriving.

The time between pregnancy and age three is critical for growth and development. But millions of children are still growing up without adequate health-care services, nutrition, safe environments, and responsive caregiving.

And for the 1.2 billion adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19, the extent to which society invests in their health and well-being will determine the future not just for them, but for everyone. 

Two girls in school uniforms smile.
UNICEF/UNI188210/Mani
In January 2013, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, launched the nationwide Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation programme.

UNICEF’s response

UNICEF works around the world to help children survive and thrive throughout the first two decades of life. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, our efforts build strong health systems to promote universal health coverage, while addressing emerging issues in child and adolescent health. 

Adolescent health and well-being

UNICEF and partners support the development and implementation of national plans for adolescent health, improving maternal and newborn care for adolescent mothers and scaling up access to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines to eliminate cervical cancer.

Non-communicable diseases 

UNICEF works to expand access to programmes for preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), focusing on risk reduction throughout the maternal, child and adolescent life cycle. We integrate NCD prevention in existing maternal, newborn and child health programmes. We also support it through education and other social sectors.

Health and child development

In collaboration with partners, UNICEF co-led the development of the Nurturing Care Framework for early childhood development. We support key health components of nurturing care, particularly in a child’s early moments, and seek opportunities to advance nurturing care through routine health interactions between families and caregivers. UNICEF also supports countries in developing programmes for early identification and other services geared towards children with developmental delays and disabilities.

Injuries

UNICEF supports countries in the prevention of child injuries and drowning – especially by improving data collection to inform policymaking.

Resources

Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health

This strategy lays the groundwork for ending all preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths by 2030 and improving the overall health and well-being of women and children.


Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development Framework

This framework, co-developed by UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, outlines how policies and services can support parents, families and communities in providing nurturing care for young children.