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Adolescent health


This Board opportunity seeks to fund innovative applied research to improve adolescent health in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Adolescent health is an area of strategic interest which will inform funding discussions at the Board meeting.


Adolescence is a unique time in the life-course. There are many opportunities to better tailor existing health improvement strategies and develop new strategies to ensure they serve the needs of specific adolescent groups. By improving health at this crucial stage there is potential to have an effect on adolescents’ future health and that of their future children.

The need to consider a broad range of health issues at this life-stage is increasingly recognised globally. For instance, the 2017 guidance produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies highlights some of the key challenges that faced the world's growing adolescent community.

  • Globally the top five causes of mortality in adolescence were: road traffic injuries, lower respiratory infections, self-harm, diarrhoeal diseases and drowning.
  • The top five global causes of disability-adjusted life years lost by adolescents were iron-deficiency anaemia, road traffic injuries, mental and substance use disorders, lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases.
  • There are gender and regional differences. The highest cause of death of girls aged 10-19 was lower respiratory infections followed by self-harm and the highest cause of death in boys in this age-group was road traffic injury followed by interpersonal violence. However, in girls aged 15 to 19, complications in pregnancy were the highest cause of mortality globally, and for example, HIV/AIDS was the fourth highest cause of death among adolescents in African LMICs.

The MRC, DfID and DHSC have made prior investments through dedicated funding calls. Further details can be found here.


This Board opportunity seeks to provide the research evidence needed to effect real and practical changes to improve adolescent health in LMICs.

Applicants should clearly identify the health issues and/or risk factors to be addressed. Proposals should explore how interventions can be developed and implemented within systems and seek to engage with related social and economic barriers within these systems. Applicants should describe the pathway for how the proposed approach can be scaled-up, as well as highlighting any potential generalisability of findings to improve the health of adolescents in other settings.

We encourage genuine interdisciplinary collaborations across social science, biomedical science and other disciplines including health economics and political science. We are happy for proposals to be led by researchers based in the social sciences, or in other disciplines, depending on what is most appropriate to deliver the proposed research.

The following are areas of particular focus:

  • research in conflict-affected and fragile states
  • road traffic and other injuries
  • prevention of interpersonal violence
  • self-harm (including suicide)
  • lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia
  • prevention and treatment of substance use (alcohol, tobacco and other drugs)
  • future NCD risk factors (raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, obesity and smoking)
  • nutrition, diet and physical activity
  • disabilities - both mental, intellectual, and physical
  • the transition out of adolescence into adulthood, including the transition to adult services
  • research addressing social (and commercial) determinants of health.

Adolescence is variably defined by different societies. Here, adolescence is defined as between the ages of 10-19, but other ranges will be considered where justified. For instance, it may be necessary to address continuity of care before and after adolescence.