March 2016: Adolescent Health Essential – Safe and Secure Places
The environment contributes greatly to an adolescent's overall health. Adolescents need safe and secure places to live, learn, and play, according to one of the Five Essentials for Healthy Adolescents identified in the national call to action, Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow℠ (TAG).
Where adolescents live makes a difference to their health today and as adults. The quality of the air and water, accessible and safe housing, and access to essential community services provide a foundation. Safe and supportive places such as schools, neighborhoods, communities, and other healthy environments foster and support adolescent development, including physical and mental health, and social and cognitive growth. Adolescents also benefit from safe places to congregate and just "hang out."
The Health Connection
Research shows that:
- Adolescents growing up in impoverished neighborhoods are at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including poor physical and mental health, delinquency, and risky sexual behavior.
- Health outcomes for adolescents and young adults are grounded in their social environments. A low level of social capital in a neighborhood has been linked to higher risk of HIV infection for adolescents in that neighborhood.
- The social environment at school affects adolescents’ attendance, academic achievement, and behavior.
- A safe and healthy school environment encourages more student engagement and protects against risky behaviors such as smoking as well as dropping out.
- The physical environment also affects adolescent health. Adolescents may be exposed to contaminants through breathing the air, ingesting food or water, or direct contact with the skin.
TAG in Action: The Power of Place
The HHS Office of Adolescent Health has identified a number of successful strategies for improving and promoting adolescent health. the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Safe Places to Play and Soccer for Success programs help communities address childhood obesity and juvenile delinquency and increase options for safe afterschool programming. Through the Safe Places to Play program, the Foundation has helped to create and develop more than 1,100 soccer fields across the country in order to give kids safe and accessible areas to play. Safe Places to Play transforms abandoned courts, empty schoolyards, and small vacant lots into state-of-the-art soccer fields. The program is built on the belief that every child should be able to play soccer without being concerned for his or her safety.
What Can You Do?
Here are some resources for creating safe and secure places for adolescents:
- Paving Way to Safe Neighborhoods – This report summarizes "Strategic Approaches to Community Safe Initiative (SACSI) in 10 U.S. Cities: The Building Blocks for Project Safe Neighborhoods." (U.S. Department of Justice)
- Measuring School Climate – The Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) is a nationally-recognized school climate survey that provides an in-depth profile of your school community’s particular strengths and needs. (National School Climate)
- Healthy School Environments – The Healthy Schools website provides a host of resources and information to help support healthy and productive school environments for our nation’s children. (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Healthy Places – This web page describes the components of healthy places and healthy environments. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Healthy and Safe Community Environments – This resources provides a description of healthy and safe community environments, and recommendations for improving environments. (Surgeon General)
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Content last reviewed on February 22, 2017