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 The Federal Perspective with Evelyn Kappeler

By Lacy Fehrenbach, MPH
Director of Programs, AMCHP

The Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) coordinates federal efforts related to adolescent health promotion and disease prevention. Shortly after the Office was formed, OAH establishedthe Adolescent Health Working Group (AHWG), which brings together U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies to work together to help ensure young people understand health and well-being and develop healthy habits of mind and body that will last a lifetime; have the support of caring professionals and prompt intervention when health risks are encountered; and for the young persons with great risks, have the assurance of coordinated, integrated care and access to services.

"We are very excited about work we’ve been able to do coordinate across agencies through adolescent health working group. We have members of other agencies outside HHS. We work very closely with the Departments of Justice, Agriculture, and Education and with the interagency working group on youth programs, which focuses more generally on youth," said Evelyn Kappeler, Director of the Office of Adolescent Health. She continued, "This second decade is such a pivotal period for establishing health promoting habits and preventing diseases that have impacts in later adulthood. If we can affect change during these years, we can build a really healthy population as they enter adulthood."

This past year OAH and AHWG hosted two meetings: the Second Decade Summit with Regions IX and X and the Science to Service Symposium. The Science to Service Symposium convened federal employees to strategize on the prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders among adolescents. The symposium serves as an examples of how these agencies can work together. Participants in the symposium identified more than a dozen recommendations, many of which focus on identifying and spreading ‘what works’ in mental, emotional, and behavioral health for adolescents and aligning programs and funding across federal agencies.

OAH continues to implement the Science to Service recommendations by integrating programs and helping the public, parents, and professionals who work with adolescents understand what works. The OAH website features a database of evidence-based programs, webinars, and resources and reports from the member agencies of the AHWG.

Ms. Kappeler commented, "Our priorities are building the evidence base of what works when working with young people and infusing evaluation into all the work that we do. It’s key that we be able to demonstrate the value of the work that we do."

The development of a national adolescent health agenda is another exciting major initiatives underway at OAH. The development of the agenda is part of the office’s strategic plan. The OAH Second Decade Summit, held last year in Regions IX and X, informed the plan. To further the agenda, OAH launched an extensive series of stakeholder engagements with six major sectors who work with adolescents and young adults: after school and community groups, education groups, faith-based, health care, social services, and public health. The collection of stakeholder feedback from across the field of adolescent health will continue through much of this year.

OAH collected feedback from adolescent health coordinators and other MCH leaders at the AMCHP 2012 Annual Conference. "Based on recommendations from that discussion and others, OAH decided to incorporate youth input into the agenda." Said Ms. Kappeler.

In late 2013, OAH will release a summary and synthesis

of the information and insights garnered from across the field of adolescent health through the numerous feedback sessions, focus groups, and expert panels. OAH plans to share a draft broadly for feedback before finalizing the report. AMCHP will keep members posted about review opportunities.

For information and resources on adolescent health, please visit hhs.gov/ash/oah/. You also can follow OAH on Twitter.