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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Report Offers Promising Approaches to Make Adolescent Health Programs More Effective

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) should focus funding on holistic, evidence-based, population-wide adolescent health programs that consider adolescent risk-taking as normative, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The report was co-authored by Dr. Nicole Kahn, a program officer with the National Academies and an adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

OASH should ensure that its programs promote building-block skills — beginning in childhood and continuing through adolescence — that make healthy behaviors possible, and engage diverse communities in improving the social and environmental factors that disadvantage and stress youth and their families.

The report — “Promoting Positive Adolescent Health Behaviors and Outcomes: Thriving in the 21st Century“— offers promising approaches for adolescent health programs, explaining that they can benefit from policies and practices that promote inclusiveness and equity so all youth are able to thrive. Effective adolescent health research, policies and programs also can benefit from including youth of diverse ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, rural and urban settings, sexual orientation, sex and gender, and disability status in decision-making processes.

Additionally, the report says that neurobiological changes lead young people to make sense of their environments through exploration, experimentation and risk-taking. The co-authors emphasize that OASH programs should treat risk-taking as normal adolescent behavior.

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