Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Adolescent health within applied global health research

The aim of this area of investment is to fund innovative applied research to improve adolescent health in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

This is funded through the applied global health research board, which is an ongoing initiative with annual funding rounds.
Partners involved:
Medical Research Council (MRC), Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The scope and what we're doing


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.

Mortality and morbidity in adolescence

The 2017 guidance produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies highlights some of the key challenges facing the world’s growing adolescent community.

Globally the top five causes of mortality in adolescence found by WHO were:

  • road traffic injuries
  • lower respiratory infections
  • self-harm
  • diarrhoeal diseases
  • drowning.

The top five global causes of disability-adjusted life years lost by adolescents found by WHO were:

  • iron-deficiency anaemia
  • road traffic injuries
  • mental and substance use disorders
  • lower respiratory infections
  • diarrhoeal diseases.

There are gender and regional differences in causes of mortality and morbidity. The highest cause of death in girls aged between 10 and 19 was lower respiratory infections, followed by self-harm. The highest cause of death in boys in this age group was road traffic injuries, followed by interpersonal violence.

However, in girls aged between 15 and 19, complications in pregnancy were the highest cause of mortality globally. For example, HIV and AIDS were the fourth highest causes of death among adolescents in African low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Scoping and priorities

This opportunity, funded through the applied global health research board, seeks to provide the research evidence needed to effect real and practical changes to improve adolescent health in LMICs.

You should clearly identify the health issues and risk factors to be addressed. Proposals should explore how interventions can be developed and implemented within systems, and should seek to engage with related social and economic barriers within these systems.

You should describe the pathway for how your 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 produce the proposed research.

Areas of focus

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, for example, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
  • future non-communicable disease (NCD) risk factors, for example, raised blood pressure, raised blood glucose, obesity and smoking
  • nutrition, diet and physical activity
  • disabilities, including 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 and 19, but other ranges will be considered where justified. For instance, it may be necessary to address continuity of care before and after adolescence.

Who to contact

MRC international


Last updated: 17 August 2023

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