10 September 2009 The leading causes of death of young people, including road accidents, suicide and reproductive complications, are preventable and treatable, according to a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO). The first study of global and regional patterns of mortality in people aged between 10 and 24 has found that road accidents, complications around pregnancy and childbirth, suicide, violence, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are the major causes of death. The study, supported by the WHO and published in The Lancet medical journal, found that 2.6 million young people are dying every year, with 97 per cent of these deaths taking place in low- and middle-income countries. WHO said in a news release that until now, there has been very little information on the causes of death among young people, who number 1.8 billion and account for 30 per cent of the world’s population. “Young people are transitioning from childhood to adulthood – at the threshold of becoming productive members of society – yet they often fall through the cracks,” said Daisy Mafubelu, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Family and Community Health. “It is clear from these findings that considerable investment is needed – not only from the health sector, but also from sectors including education, welfare, transport and justice – to improve access to information and services, and help young people avoid risky behaviours that can lead to death.” Among the measures recommended by WHO are: the prevention of road accidents through speed management, the enforcement of drink-driving laws and increased use of helmets and seatbelts; improving reproductive health through education, increased access to condoms and HIV/AIDS testing and counselling; and reducing suicide rates by improved training in life skills, reduced alcohol consumption and the promotion of positive parental involvement in the lives of young people.
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