National adolescent health month highlights ways to support youth
Each May, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs (OPA) hosts the National Adolescent Health Month™ (NAHM). This annual observance has emphasized the importance of building on young people’s strengths and potential, encouraging meaningful youth engagement in adolescent health activities, and highlighting key topics in adolescent health.
Adolescent health encompasses changing transitions within multiple physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and intellectual domains. The fast-paced development of these different domains can lead to phenomenal growth during this period. This growth can also occur at different rates, putting adolescents at a higher risk for risk-taking behaviors and emerging mental health issues. It is important to understand adolescent development, environmental influences, and the risk and protective factors that can affect adolescent health so that organizations and individuals who work with youth can support the health and healthy development of all adolescents.
The four themes for NAHM include:
- Expand sexual and reproductive health information and services
Better information and improved access to services will help adolescents—with the support of their parents and caregivers—make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and well-being.
- Promote self-care to support mental health
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report shows that poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors are increasing among 9th through 12th-grade students. Community organizations, governments, families and caregivers, employers, and young people can all be part of the solution to improve youth mental health.
- Celebrate ways communities support health
Teachers, coaches, and school administrators can employ a positive youth development approach to engaging young people. Building on adolescents’ strengths, communities can support youth and promote positive outcomes.
- Equip adults to support adolescent health
The environment where adolescents live, go to school, work, and play impacts their health and well-being. Communities—including teachers, coaches, mentors, and other youth-serving professionals—support young people as they develop into healthy adults. Caring adults need reliable information and resources to support, advise, and care for young people.
The OPA recognizes that investing in adolescent health and well-being will generate a “triple benefit” for society:
- Health for young people today
- A healthy adult life
- Better health for the next generation
About Between Us
Between Us is a grant-funded program from the Minnesota Department of Health that creates access to confidential reproductive healthcare for youth and young adults who receive their care at Hennepin Healthcare. Teens have the right to confidentiality for certain kinds of care under Minnesota’s Minor Consent Law. Between Us works to transform primary care into a more teen-friendly environment, welcoming teens and their parents, while also providing confidential care when needed.