AstraZeneca Young Health Programme

The AstraZeneca Young Health Programme (YHP) aims to positively impact the health of adolescents in marginalised communities worldwide through research, advocacy and on-the-ground programmes which are now focused on NCD prevention.

There is an increasing global burden of non-communicable diseases (NCD). Risks for developing NCDs in later life are often increased by behaviours started or amplified in adolescence, which are continued through the life course, yet adolescent health continues to be an underexplored aspect of preventing NCDs. Through research, advocacy and on-the-ground activities, YHP aims to increase understanding of the risk and protective factors which affect adolescent health and the likelihood of them developing NCDs in later life, whilst at the same time ensuring that the perspectives of adolescents themselves are taken into account.

YHP is a partnership between AstraZeneca, and global partners Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Plan International, with a further 22 local NGO partners also implementing YHP programmes on the ground. By 2015, it will reach 500,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 directly and will touch an additional 500,000 lives indirectly.

Going beyond medicines to help improve the health of a generation

Adolescent health remains an underserved part of the healthcare agenda and this global investment initiative aims to make a measurable and sustainable difference. By 2015, it will reach 500,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 directly and will touch an additional 500,000 lives indirectly.

Why adolescent health and NCD prevention

A quarter of the world’s population is aged 10-24 (1.8 billion). This is a larger proportion than ever before. (WHO. Global health risks: mortality and burden of disease attributable to select major risks. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2009). Nearly 90% of them live in low-income and middle-income countries (Sawyer SM, Afifi RA, Bearinger LH, et al. Adolescence: a foundation for future health. Lancet 2012;379(9826):1630-1640). NCDs are no longer confined primarily to the developed world. Not only are economically disadvantaged adolescents more likely to partake in the risk behaviours associated with the development of NCDs (tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, injury-related risk behaviours and sexual activity), they are also less likely to adopt physical activity and optimal diets. (P. Due, R. Krolner, M. Rasmussen et al. Pathways and mechanisms in adolescence contribute to adult health inequalities. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 39 (suppl (6)) (2011), pp. 62–78)

Adolescence is a critical time for paving the way to good health in adulthood e.g. Nine out of ten adult smokers begin before age 18 (World Health Organization. (2002). The Tobacco Atlas. Geneva: World Health Organization). Research has shown when young people have more control over their social environments they make better behavioural choices regarding their health. (Harris 2010).

Global framework, local flexibility

The Young Health Programme provides a global framework with the flexibility to enable our local business units to identify young health needs in their local communities which will increasingly focus on the most relevant NCD related youth risk behaviours. These will be addressed with appropriate and sustainable local programmes.

The areas of focus for the local programmes vary from country to country. For example:

  • In Brazil, India and Zambia, we are focusing on hygiene, sexual and reproductive health and other health related issues such as tobacco use
  • In Germany, The Netherlands and UK, we are helping young homeless people improve their mental and physical health and well-being
  • In Canada, Korea, Portugal and Sweden, the focus is on improving the emotional and mental well-being of vulnerable adolescents
  • In Romania we are focusing on cardiovascular risk prevention in young people and developing a national educational programme in schools.

Measuring the impact

A range of measures have been put in place to assess both the community benefit and business benefits of Young Health Programme, using the LBG model. This framework enables us not only to see progress made against our target of reaching 500,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 directly and touching an additional 500,000 lives indirectly over five years but also to identify the outputs and impacts of the programme on the ground as it is rolled out by country.

Employee volunteering in work time and based on quality over quantity is encouraged to support the programme benefits further. Employee involvement has been facilitated by the introduction of a global volunteering allowance for all employees.

For further information, visit the Young Health Programme website This site is aimed at organisations and individuals who work with young people to provide information on YHP and share materials and resources.


At a global level, research is being conducted to build an understanding of the health needs of the most disadvantaged youth across the world and is looking particularly at the barriers to these young people accessing health information and services.

This research is being led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the principle component is the Well-being of Adolescents in Vulnerable Environments (WAVE) Study. This two-phase study was undertaken in Baltimore (US), Shanghai (China), Johannesburg (South Africa), New Delhi (India), and Ibadan (Nigeria). The site in Ibadan is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – the other sites are funded by AstraZeneca’s Young Health Programme.

The first phase included formative research providing qualitative data on the health needs of 15-19 year olds in very disadvantaged communities in these cities. The second phase included quantitative research with a representative sample of approximately 2,400 adolescents – 400 from each location, providing data on the key health issues identified in the qualitative phase of the research.

Research findings will be used to inform those responsible for designing health services for adolescents of the changes needed to support disadvantaged youth more effectively.


The goal of YHP global advocacy is to put the prevention of NCD-related behavioural risk factors of adolescents on the global and local policy agenda. This is being done through a range of targeted activities.

To date, the partnership has:

  • Made a commitment at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting to combat Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in young people through integrated global research, advocacy, education and health-skills training.
  • Presented an advocacy document ‘NCDs and Adolescents – an opportunity for action’ alongside the UN General Assembly in conjunction with the NCD Child Alliance, the International Pediatrics Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Presented at a series of global events including the 2010 International Congress on Urban Health, WHO conference on the social Determinants of Health in 2011 and World Health Summit Berlin 2012.
  • Presented initial findings from the WAVE study and hosted a youth led session on “engaging youth in the creation of their own health state” at International Association of Adolescent Health World Congress 2013. At this event a youth engagement toolkit of the same name was also launched.


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Read details of our 2013 performance.

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