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Healthcare Professionals

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 healthcare 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

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.

Find more resources about making healthcare offices friendly and welcoming.

Ask hard questions and use risk screening tools

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.

Find more resources about asking hard questions and using risk screening tools.

Make preventive services a priority

Ensure adolescents receive recommended clinical preventive services, including immunizations, screening, and counseling about behaviors that will support their health.

Find more resources about making preventive services a priority.

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.

Find more resources maintain referral sources for youth.

Improve and update training on adolescent health

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.

Find more resources about improving training on adolescent health.

Facilitate smooth transitions from adolescent to adult healthcare settings

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.

Find more resources about facilitating smooth transitions to adult healthcare settings.

Be a leader in building partnerships in the community with others who serve youth

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.

Find more resources about being a leader in the community.


1 Irwin, C.E. Jr., Adams, S.H., Park, M.J., and Newacheck, P.W. (2009). Preventive care for adolescents: few get visits and fewer get services. Pediatrics, 123(4), e565-572.
2 Peikes, D., Zutshi, A., Genevro, J., Smith, K., Parchman, M., & Meyers, D. (2012). Final report: Early evidence on the patient-centered medical home. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Retrieved from https://pcmh.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/Early%20Evidence%20on%20the%20PCMH%202%2028%2012.pdf.

Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® and the logo design are registered trademarks of HHS.

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on February 26, 2019