September 2016: OAH Picks: Broad Influences on Adolescent Health
Adolescents grow in environments that are largely shaped by adults, who determine the availability and quality of services such as, schools, healthcare options, community centers, libraries, businesses, and parks. Adolescents’ health and growth are also influenced by social determinants of health such as poverty and access to safe housing, healthy foods, and many other factors. The recent Lancet report on adolescent health and well-being includes information on how policies and media can shape adolescent health and be used to help promote it.
Policies can support adolescents by ensuring positive, teen-friendly community supports or limiting access to items related to risky behaviors. In this way, youth-serving professionals and community leaders can do a lot to support health. For example:
- The recent expansion of the Summer Food Service Program into youth work programs lets adolescents who opt to work and rely on school meals maintain access to food in the summer months.
- The Food and Drug Administration’s new rule limits the sale of all tobacco products to those over the age of 18, which will hopefully curb the growing e-cigarette use among youth. Some states have further limited tobacco access by raising the legal age for buying cigarettes to 19 or 21.
- Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) programs gradually increase adolescents’ driving privileges as they demonstrate increased responsibility while driving. A 2006 study showed about a 20% lower crash involvement rate for 16-year-olds in the most comprehensive GDL programs compared with those not in GDL programs.
The media is also a powerful tool that shapes behaviors by setting norms, providing role models, and informing the public. There are examples of using media in positive ways to support adolescent health:
- Surgeon General Vivek Murthy adds fun to walking with his public playlist. He also is changing how we talk about the sensitive issue of opioid abuse with the Instagram campaign, #TurntheTideRx.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration supplements drunk driving prevention policies with pithy posts on Buzzfeed. Their latest articles, “10 Lies Your Drunk Brain Tells You” and “10 Reasons Why You Really, Really, Really Don’t Want a DUI,” use GIFs to encourage young people to consider and avoid poor decisions linked to alcohol use.
The TAG Connection
Beyond the examples above, check out Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG), which provides an expanded framework and resources to promote cross-collaboration for adolescent health. You can read stories of communities and organizations that have put these ideas into practice. For example, the school system and health department in Chicago partnered to develop a city-wide action plan with 65 strategies for improving adolescent health. They also worked with youth to produce innovative public awareness campaigns
Policies & media shape health by affecting what youth can do/get & how they see the world http://ow.ly/258L303JHeo #TAG42mil
Content last reviewed on February 22, 2017