NEW YORK, September 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

A partnership between AstraZeneca, Plan International and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Young Health Programme aims to help young people improve their lifelong health

The Young Health Programme today announced, at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting, a commitment to combat NCDs in young people through integrated global research, advocacy, education and health-skills training that will benefit a quarter of a million adolescents across 15 countries.

NCDs, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, cause 36 million deaths per year globally. Over half of the deaths related to NCDs are associated with lifestyle behaviors that begin or are reinforced during youth, such as tobacco use, physical activity, diet habits and sexual activity; however, young people's health with regard to NCDs is often overlooked.

The broader Young Health Programme will reach 500,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 directly and will touch a further 500,000 lives indirectly by 2015. It is underway in five countries across four continents: India, Brazil, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and launches this month in Zambia.

"The Young Health Programme is designed to connect adolescents most at risk of disease and early death with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive. Our project in Zambia will include training for peer and community staff as well as education and health services in the Chadiza District, reaching 50,000 people. This is a great example of how the Young Health Programme is making a difference to change health behaviors and provide the training and education to improve young people's lives now and for the future," said Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International.

David Brennan, CEO of AstraZeneca, added: "At AstraZeneca, we believe we have a role beyond making medicines, it's about making people healthier, and that's why we established the Young Health Programme in collaboration with our expert partners. The program's commitment to reducing NCDs in young people through early lifestyle intervention responds to the call for action at the recent United Nations high-level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs by providing tangible solutions on the ground."

The Young Health Programme's commitment, "Tackling Non-Communicable Diseases in Young People," creates a step change by reducing the burden of NCDs through adolescent health behaviors. The commitment was made during the 2011 CGI Annual Meeting, the seventh annual gathering of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.

The Young Health Programme's commitment to reducing the burden of NCDs will:

- Address NCDs through local community programs in at least 15 countries that address locally-pertinent health issues and risk factors for NCDs - Advocate for policies and programs that address the connection between youth and NCDs over the next decade - including the presentation of an advocacy document this week at the UN General Assembly in conjunction with the NDC Child Alliance, the International Pediatrics Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics - Improve scientific research on the health needs of the most disadvantaged youth to address behaviors that have a direct impact on the later development of NCDs.

"Among obese youth, 70% have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease by the age of 20 - this is just one example of many showing how behaviors established during adolescence can have lasting and serious health implications. With NCD-related behaviors on the rise among young people, this commitment provides an opportunity to take immediate action by giving adolescents the tools they need to make healthier decisions, reducing the chances they will suffer from a condition such as heart disease or diabetes in the future," said Robert Wm. Blum, MD, MPH, PhD, William H. Gates, Sr. Professor and Chair of the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Young Health Programme has also initiated a two-phased research study, titled the Well Being of Adolescents in Vulnerable Environments (WAVE) study. The objectives are to understand the factors helping and hindering disadvantaged adolescents from obtaining needed health information and services. Findings will be used to inform the health community of imperative changes required in adolescent health services to treat disadvantaged youth more effectively.

The study will be conducted in six cities around the world: Baltimore, MD; Ibadan*, Nigeria; Johannesburg, South Africa; New Delhi, India; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Shanghai, China. It has started in Baltimore and Shanghai and other cities are expected to commence shortly.

* (This site is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, all others by AstraZeneca)

ABOUT ASTRAZENECA: AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and marketing of prescription medicines for cancer, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, and infectious disease. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit: http://www.astrazeneca.com.

ABOUT JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH:

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHBSPH) is dedicated to protecting health and saving lives. Every day, the School works to keep millions around the world safe from illness and injury by pioneering new research, deploying its knowledge and expertise in the field and educating tomorrow's scientists and practitioners in the global defense of human life. JHBSPH is the oldest and largest school of public health in the world. It is also the first institution of its kind worldwide.

ABOUT PLAN INTERNATIONAL:

Plan is a global children's charity working in 50 developing countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia. It helps the world's poorest children, their families and entire communities to move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.

ABOUT THE YOUNG HEALTH PROGRAMME:

The Young Health Programme is about helping young people in need around the world to deal with the health problems they face and improve their chances for a better life in the future. The program is a partnership between AstraZeneca, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Plan, a leading international children's development organization.

ABOUT THE CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE: