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 Background

Maternal and child health programs include services to the nation’s women, infants, children, adolescents and their families, including children and youth with special health care needs.

Adolescence - defined as the period of life extending from 10-24 - is a crucial developmental period characterized by physical, emotional and intellectual changes, as well as changes in social roles, relationships and expectations.  It is a time of growing independence and discovery and a period when behaviors are established that can have an impact on both immediate and ongoing health outcomes.

In general adolescents in the United States are healthy.  In fact, according to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report, the prevalence of many health-risk behaviors among high school students nationwide has decreased.   However, too many young people continue to engage in behaviors such as tobacco use, unprotected sexual activity or poor nutrition and physical activity habits that have both immediate and long-term negative consequences.

Thus one of the most important commitments maternal and child health programs can make to improve the quality of life for maternal and child health populations is to address the health and develop­mental needs of its young people to promote positive health, education, social, and economic outcomes.

AMCHP identifies adolescent preventive health as a focus area for special attention. Adolescent preventive health is defined as promoting the health of adolescents by helping states build partnerships and strengthen their capacity and address adolescent health from a resiliency/asset approach and to prevent risk-taking behaviors.

With funding from the Health Services and Resources Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, AMCHP works with maternal and child health professionals to achieve the following adolescent health goals:

  • Improve the health of women, children, youth, families and children and youth with special health care needs through the promotion of a lifecourse framework
  • Promote the health of adolescents by strengthening state-level capacity to develop, implement and evaluate effective adolescent health public health interventions, programs and policies
  • Pursue the elimination of health disparities and inequities, particularly among racial and ethnic groups
  • Advance leadership practices that ensure strong leadership for MCH at the national, state and local levels.