According to recent research, global efforts to reduce infectious disease rates must focus on older children and adolescents. The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute revealed that while progress has been made in improving the mortality and morbidity rates among young children, the burden of infectious diseases in children and adolescents aged five and above remains significant. In 2019 alone, 650,000 children and adolescents in this age group died from communicable diseases, accounting for a third of all child deaths.
Professor Peter Azzopardi, the deputy director of the institute’s centre for adolescent health, emphasised the need to pay more attention to the five to 24 age group. He highlighted that older children and adolescents still experience a considerable burden of communicable diseases. Diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria constitute two-thirds of infectious diseases and the leading causes of death among young people aged five to 24. HIV and tuberculosis also contribute significantly to the disease burden among older adolescents.
The research, published in The Lancet, not only focuses on the number of deaths but also examines the ongoing impact of these communicable diseases. Prof. Azzopardi stated that these diseases also result in significant morbidity, causing individuals to take time off from work or school due to illness. The study measured the years of life lost due to periods of illness, highlighting the long-lasting consequences of these diseases.
These findings have far-reaching implications for various aspects of public and clinical healthcare. Prof. Azzopardi emphasised the need to reconsider data collection methods and models of care for young people. While mental health care and preventative interventions for injuries are often prioritised, addressing communicable diseases should also be given equal attention.