Addressing non-communicable disease (NCDs) is a global priority in the Sustainable Development Goals, especially for adolescents. However, existing literature on NCD burden, risk factors and determinants, and effective interventions and policies for targeting these diseases in adolescents, is limited. This study develops an evidence-based conceptual framework, and highlights pathways between risk factors and interventions to NCD development during adolescence (ages 10–19 years) and continuing into adulthood. Additionally, the epidemiologic profile of key NCD risk factors and outcomes among adolescents and preventative NCD policies/laws/legislations are examined, and a multivariable analysis is conducted to explore the determinants of NCDs among adolescents and adults.
We reviewed literature to develop an adolescent-specific conceptual framework for NCDs. Global data repositories were searched from Jan-July 2018 for data on NCD-related risk factors, outcomes, and policy data for 194 countries from 1990 to 2016. Disability-Adjusted Life Years were used to assess disease burden. A hierarchical modeling approach and ordinary least squares regression was used to explore the basic and underlying causes of NCD burden.
Mental health disorders are the most common NCDs found in adolescents. Adverse behaviours and lifestyle factors, specifically smoking, alcohol and drug use, poor diet and metabolic syndrome, are key risk factors for NCD development in adolescence. Across countries, laws and policies for preventing NCD-related risk factors exist, however those targeting contraceptive use, drug harm reduction, mental health and nutrition are generally limited. Many effective interventions for NCD prevention exist but must be implemented at scale through multisectoral action utilizing diverse delivery mechanisms. Multivariable analyses showed that structural/macro, community and household factors have significant associations with NCD burden among adolescents and adults.
Multi-sectoral efforts are needed to target NCD risk factors among adolescents to mitigate disease burden and adverse outcomes in adulthood. Findings could guide policy and programming to reduce NCD burden in the sustainable development era.