Improving Adolescent’s Access to Care:
the Adolescent Health Consortium Project
Jonathan D. Klein, MD, MPH
University of Illinois at Chicago
Adolescence and young adulthood are characterized by significant physical, emotional and intellectual growth as well as increased vulnerability and risk taking. The decisions that young people make and the behaviors they engage in can have serious short- and long-term health consequences. Clinical preventive services can reduce the negative consequences of adolescent risk-taking behaviors. Guideline based periodic health care visit visits present an opportunity to provide preventive services that can reduce adolescents’ engagement in—and mitigate the impact of—risky behaviors.
Preventive services that have proven effective in reducing harm to adolescents and young adults include: immunization; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections; reproductive and sexual health care services, including contraception; and screening and counseling to reduce risky behaviors including tobacco, alcohol and drug use and to address injury prevention, mental health, obesity, physical activity, and other health topics. However, most young people in the United States do not receive these recommended preventive clinical care services. While many adolescents and their parents report having had health care visits, and when visits do occur, many young people report that they lack one- on-one confidential discussion with their clinician.
In response to these missed opportunities, four national medical societies— the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM), and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)— have collaborated on a five-year adolescent health consortium initiative with two overarching goals: 1) to improve parental and youth awareness of the importance and value of preventive health care services; and 2) to increase the number of young people who receive appropriate preventive health care services, including confidential services within professional, ethical and legal guidelines.
The project has conducted with research to identify gaps in knowledge about the importance of preventive services among the project’s target audiences and develop effective traditional and new media technologies as tools for improving preventive health care services for adolescents and young adults. Today’s presentation will concentrate on the data from focus groups with parents, adolescents and young adults, and health care providers, and on data derived from a nationally representative on-line survey of adolescents and their parents, and of young adults. We will present in-depth data on current youth and parent awareness of the value of preventive health care and the barriers and facilitators that prevent young people from access to and use of appropriate and needed care.
The partner organizations have developed communication strategies, messages and tools sharing information about the value of preventive health care services, and each partner is leading communication activities within their organization to incorporate key messages into new and existing education and outreach activities and to develop education and practice-change quality improvement interventions for their members.