Healthcare professionals are on the front line of improving adolescent health and development. See below for additional ways to promote adolescent health.
The Healthcare Field: Making a Difference
The majority of American children enter adolescence and continue through in good health, but adolescents benefit from health care tailored to this unique developmental period. Healthcare professionals are encouraged to adopt one or more of the roles below to enhance the delivery of healthcare services to adolescents.
- Preventive healthcare services during adolescence can help protect them into adulthood. Unfortunately, less than half of all children and adolescents receive the recommended number of preventive care visits and many do not receive all the screening and counseling services and immunizations recommended for adolescents.1
- Positive health behaviors, such as exercising regularly and eating nutritious meals, are often established during this period as well.
- The recent trend to establish patient-centered medical homes shows some promise for improving overall quality of patient health and producing better experiences.2 This should be tested with adolescents.
Action Steps and Resources
- Make healthcare offices friendly and welcoming
- Ask hard questions and use risk screening tools
- Make preventive services a priority
- Maintain referral sources for youth with chronic conditions, special needs, and behavioral health issues
- Improve and update training on adolescent health
- Facilitate smooth transitions from adolescent to adult healthcare settings
- Be a leader in building partnerships in the community with others who serve youth
Consider adolescents when selecting décor, furniture, and reading materials. Provide take-home information in smaller formats that can be tucked in wallets or purses discreetly, and offer information in private settings. Set office hours to accommodate busy school schedules. Bring services to schools whenever feasible. Train all staff, including clerical and paraprofessionals, in how to welcome and interact with adolescents.
Ask adolescents about sensitive topics, such as weight, sexual orientation or behavior, mental health, behavioral risks, and violence or victimization. Use risk screening tools. Integrate tools and confidentiality policies into healthcare practices to improve patient care. Establish practice-wide policies to create time alone with teenage patients, and inform parents in writing and on your website that this is your routine practice.
Ensure adolescents receive recommended clinical preventive services, including immunizations, screening, and counseling about behaviors that will support their health.
Maintain referral sources for youth with chronic conditions, special needs, and behavioral health issues
Know who in your community can help with mental health, substance use, eating disorders, and other challenges. Make referrals to available services in the community and establish and implement follow up procedures to see if the patient obtained the services and how he or she is doing.
Use this training to reflect the latest knowledge on adolescent development, risks and protective factors, and confidentiality laws. Ensure that staff receives training and incorporates this knowledge into practice.
Assist adolescent patients with transitions and ensure continuity and quality of care. If an adolescent with special needs or a chronic condition is transitioning to a different healthcare setting, make referrals to providers who can meet those needs. Encourage youth and parents to plan for medical coverage during the transition to adulthood.
Promote adolescent health by taking a lead role in coordinating care across systems, including health, education, social services, and other community partners. Identify and engage unlikely allies and organizations such as older adults and retiree groups to partner with to improve adolescent health. Get involved in community efforts related to adolescent health such as facilitating greater access to health and sex education information, programs that strengthen families and build youth skills, and school-health centers.
Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® and the logo design are registered trademarks of HHS.
Content last reviewed on March 7, 2018