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March 2019: How to Improve Access to Care for Teens

Ensuring adolescents have access to high-quality, teen-friendly healthcare is one of the Five Essentials for Healthy Adolescents identified in the national call to action, Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG). Without access to high-quality, teen-friendly services, some adolescents may be unable to meet their immediate healthcare needs and may not establish the healthy habits that can lead to better outcomes later in life.

Barriers to Accessing Healthcare for Adolescents

Adolescents may face a range of external barriers to accessing the healthcare they need. These barriers can include challenges with navigating the healthcare system, concerns about privacy and confidentiality, shortages of providers, conflicts with school and work schedules, unavailability of adults to escort them to appointments, and financial challenges. Read TAG Research Reviews for more information on adolescents’ access to healthcare and other essential components of adolescent health.

Improving Access to Healthcare for Adolescents

The TAG Playbook includes a number of actions that healthcare providers and other professionals can take to improve adolescents’ access to healthcare. For example, healthcare providers and public health professionals can:

  • Co-locate health services with other programs aimed at youth or at locations where youth naturally congregate, such as schools or local community centers, to increase the likelihood that teens will access the care they need. 
  • Ensure that clinics are welcoming and that services are up to date on the latest adolescent health and development practices.
  • Ask adolescent patients how healthcare providers can better meet their needs and help facilitate a smooth transition to adult healthcare settings. 
  • Partner with other community stakeholders to promote and share resources with adolescents and their families.

The OAH website has information on preparing youth to navigate their own healthcare and providing the healthcare services recommended for adolescents

Did You Know?

Healthy People 2020 discusses several goals related to adolescent health, including the need to increase the proportion of adolescents that received a wellness checkup in the past 12 months.

Successful Strategies: Provide Adolescents with High-Quality Healthcare

OAH sponsors the TAG in Action: Successful Strategies for Improving Adolescent Health webinar series. The first two webinars below highlight school-based healthcare settings and the third focuses on a mobile van that provides healthcare services to runaway, homeless, and other underserved adolescents.

Spread the Word with These Posts


Adolescents need access to high-quality, teen-friendly healthcare: it’s a TAG essential. Learn about the TAG 5 Essentials for #AdolescentHealth: https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/tag/why-tag/five-essentials-for-healthy-adolescents/index.html #TAG42Mil @TeenHealthGov

The @StanfordChild’s Mobile Teen Van visits schools and shelters to bring healthcare, social services, and education programs to runaway, homeless, and other underserved youth. Learn more from @TeenHealthGov: https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/tag/in-action/mobile-health-van/index.html #TAG42Mil

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on April 18, 2019