The health status of street children and youth in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review of the literature

J Adolesc Health. 2013 Sep;53(3):314-321.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.03.013. Epub 2013 May 22.


The health of the tens of millions of street children globally is understudied. We undertook a systematic review of the existing quantitative literature regarding the health status of street children and youth in low- and middle-income countries to summarize available knowledge, identify underexplored areas of research, and inform the future research agenda regarding the health of this population. A total of 108 articles met our inclusion criteria. Demographic data and structural factors associated with street life are summarized. Although data in specific regions or diseases are sparse, the literature review illustrates that youth's survival behaviors and the exposures associated with poor shelter have resulted in disproportionate morbidity in the areas of infectious illness, psychiatric disease, reproductive health, and perhaps to a lesser extent, growth. Vast areas of health that may disproportionately affect street children in childhood or later on as adults have not been investigated, including chronic diseases and cognitive deficits. Studies of specific diseases or conditions vary considerably by region. Strengths and limitations of the literature are discussed and principles for future research in this area are proposed.

Keywords: Adolescent; Developing countries; Health status; Homeless youth; Review; Street children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child Welfare
  • Developing Countries*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Status*
  • Homeless Youth*
  • Humans
  • Male