Five Essentials for Healthy Adolescents

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sought the input of professionals who, through their work in out-of-school, community-based, faith-based, education, healthcare, public health, and social services settings, reach a large number of adolescents. Together these national leaders identified five essential components of adolescent health.

Five Essentials

Adolescents should have:

  1. Positive connections with supportive people: Adolescents crave safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with supportive adults, whether with parents, coaches, neighbors, grandparents, teachers, older adults in the community, program leaders, or mentors. These types of connections are important for all teens and may be difficult for at-risk youth to find and sustain.
  2. Safe and secure places to live, learn, and play: Safe and supportive places such as schools, neighborhoods, communities, and healthy environments foster and support healthy adolescent development across the spectrum, including physical and mental health, social interactions, and cognitive growth. Adolescents also benefit from safe places to congregate and just “hang out.”
  3. Access to high-quality, teen-friendly healthcare: Adolescents benefit from access to high-quality medical and dental care, mental and behavioral health services, and to healthcare providers who understand and value adolescents. Services that are youth-friendly, culturally-competent, affordable, convenient, and confidential are preferred by young patients. Healthcare that is adolescent-centered and involves parents but allows for increased autonomy as adolescents reach their late teens, is desirable.
  4. Opportunities for teens to engage as learners, leaders, team members, and workers: Active youth involvement with people and programs is important for promoting healthy adolescent development. This includes activities at school, home, or in the community, such as school clubs, sports, music, the arts, or out-of-school time programs, jobs, or activities at places of worship. Adolescents also benefit from opportunities to become involved in shaping programs and activities, which not only improves the programs for other youth, but provides them with valuable leadership experiences and confidence.
  5. Coordinated, adolescent- and family-centered services, as needed: Adolescents enter service systems at multiple points and places. Integrated and coordinated services can help ensure better health outcomes and support healthy development for adolescents. Unfortunately, the systems for providing services and supports to adolescents are often fragmented, spread across government agencies, nonprofit organizations, healthcare providers, businesses, and faith-based organizations. There is a clear benefit from a more coherent, integrated approach to fostering health and healthy development for adolescents.

Spread the word about the five essentials for adolescent health and encourage others to join Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG) with the TAG Toolkit (PDF, 12 pages).

TAG Research Reviews

TAG Research Reviews highlight research, evaluation reports, and other publications that inform the field about key issues in, and effective practices for, fostering improved health, reducing risky behavior, and improving engagement and healthy development in young people.

Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® and the logo design are registered trademarks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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