This study presents findings from models estimating the benefit to cost ratio (BCR)—the average value of an intervention relative to its cost—of various interventions affecting adolescents in a number of low, lower-middle, and upper-middle income countries. Interventions targeting physical, mental, and sexual health included family planning, safe abortion, HIV/STI prevention and care, interventions focused on men who have sex with men, interventions focused on sex workers, interventions focused on injection drug use, and out-of-school youth-focused interventions.
The average BCR showed a $22.4 value for each dollar spent on HPV vaccination programs in a low income country, $12.8 in a lower-middle income country, and $14.0 in an upper-middle income country. For all other health interventions, the average values were $12.6, $9.9, and $6.4, respectively. Notably, the BCR may be higher than actually reported because it only accounted for deaths and serious disabilities averted, healthy life-years gained from mental health and substance-use, and prevention of unwanted pregnancy.
Application to the United States is obviously limited because it is a high-income country, but the results are still promising because even upper-middle income countries show high BCRs for sexual and mental health interventions focused on adolescents. The study supports further research to understand a more robust application of the findings, and it suggests large-scale economic investments in adolescents should be considered an essential element for health and well-being.