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  4. Five Essentials For Healthy Adolescents

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.

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).