By Michael R. Fraser, PhD, CAE
If we are to truly implement the life course perspective in maternal and child health we have to get serious about how we support the health of adolescents and young adults in our states and engage youth in the work of Title V programs nationwide. Many states have supported robust adolescent health programs for years and they have learned a number of lessons about how to best meet the health needs of adolescents and young adults. We are pleased to highlight some of that work in this issue of Pulse. But many states continue to struggle with how to best address the needs of adolescents and implement a systems-based approach to adolescent health in their programs. There is a lot more we all can do in this important part of maternal and child (and adolescent) health.
States leading in this area have done many things right, and I also am sure they have made many mistakes along the way. However, one thing I have observed in states that have taken on adolescent health work and done it well is this: they engage young people in decision making and support the development of youth leaders in all aspects of their work. Through advisory committees, focus groups, needs assessment, and other mechanisms, the voice of adolescents and young adults is included in a meaningful way in the planning and implementation of their youth-serving Title V programs and this has led to tremendous successes. Again, the success stories in this issue of Pulse are great examples of this work in action.
At AMCHP we have started to think through how to best engage youth in our national work and created a draft plan for moving this issue forward. Our Family and Youth Leadership Committee has taken on the issue and AMCHP leaders have helped us map out some potential strategies for more effective engagement of youth in our work. There are many ways that we can do better in this area and member input has been vital to thinking about improvement. I invite continued feedback and idea sharing as we develop our youth involvement plans and think through what effective engagement of youth and young adults looks like from the AMCHP perspective.
Clearly, now is the time to get serious about addressing the health needs of adolescents and young adults. With new resources at the federal level made available through the Affordable Care Act and national leadership and coordination provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Adolescent Health and its partner entities there is energy and great interest in addressing adolescent health. I hope this issue of Pulse is helpful in highlighting this energy and interest, and getting you and your programs excited about the potential for moving forward with adolescent health initiatives in your state!