Guest editorial : Health and social care needs of children and young people
Infants, children and adolescents make up 40% of the world's population; moreover, the population of adolescents, at 1.2 billion, is higher now than at any time in human history (UNFPA 2003). The responsibility of national governments to ensure the protection of children and young people is clearly enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (entry into force 1990). Embedded in four core principles of non-discrimination: devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child, the convention encompasses the protection of children's rights by setting standards in health care and education, legal, civil and social services. However, young people remain among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in most populations, with over half of the world's population of adolescents living in poverty (UNFPA 2003). The World Health Organisation secretariat reported in 2001 that despite advances in the health and development outcomes of young people since the 1950s, at the start of the 21st century progress has slowed. Globally, provision for essential interventions that address the health needs of young people remain ‘modest’ and, in particular, adolescents still lack ‘environments that support their development and increase their access to information, skills and health services’ (WHO Executive Board 2001).