These state and national profiles are only a starting point. Improving adolescent health requires effective programs and policies. These profiles can guide program and policy development and help garner support for greater focus on adolescent health issues in your state.
The following slideshow presents background on the development of the 21 Critical Health Objectives and provides examples of how the data can be used to develop programs and policies in your state.
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Your review of these data might highlight several areas of concern. For example, findings for your state might include:
- Poor comparisons to national rates or similar states (e.g., maybe your adolescents exercise less or fight more).
- Unhealthy change that runs counter to an improvement nationally or in a similar state (e.g., an increase in tobacco, compared to the national decrease).
- An unusually large disparity (e.g., a three-fold gender difference in your state, compared to a much smaller difference nationally).
These findings may be true for adolescents overall or it may be that a subgroup is faring poorly compared to adolescents overall.
Your review of these profiles will probably find many areas of concern. A next step is to prioritize among many findings in collaboration with partners. Prioritized areas can form the basis for action. Action may involve completely new initiatives, but are more likely to build on existing infrastructure and partnerships.
You might also wish to assess state policies and programs related to the findings. For example, maybe your state implemented policies to reduce underage drinking. If binge drinking decreased after these policies were introduced, continued or increased support for those policies may be an option. Comparisons to demographically similar states may be helpful in your own state’s policy reviews. For example, rates of underage drinking may have increased in your state, while rates may have decreased in a comparable state (e.g., in terms of geography, ethnic/racial composition, etc.). Your state could potentially adapt policy actions taken in that state.
Overall, when considering the impact of your state’s policies, proceed with caution! Other issues must be considered—such as timing of policies and the manner in which they were implemented, for example, the extent to which there was sufficient fiscal and other types of technical assistance and training resources for full policy implementation. Moreover, policy is just one of many factors that contribute to individual health status and behavior.
There is an abundance of tools and resources related to improving adolescent health. We offer a “starter set” of links here, including resources to reducing disparities.
- The federal government has several programs that aim to reduce disparities in the general population, including adolescents. REACH — Racial and Ethnic approaches to Community Health — is a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Reach Websites offers a range of tools and resources for community efforts to reduce health disparities and links to many other resources within the CDC. The CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health presents information specific to adolescents.
- In April 2011, the Office of Minority Health issued a National Action Plan for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.
- A good starting place is the Prevention Institute, which offers many resources including a Health Equity and Prevention Primer and Communities Taking Action: Profiles of Health Equity
- Grantmakers in Health also offers resources on health disparities.
Reports and Guidelines Specific to Children and Youth
- Addressing Racial and Ethnic disparities through schools, from the Council of State Governments
- A disparities reading list from the American Medical Association
- Ideas for programs and strategies from the National Institute of Health Care Management: Reducing Health Disparities Among Children: Strategies and Programs for Health Plans
- The Case for Investing in Youth Health Literacy: One Step on the Path to Achieving Health Equity for Adolescents
- State Strategic Planning Guide (2011)
- Tracking Adolescent Health Policy: An Annotated List (2008 update, 13 pages) lists organizations and agencies that monitor trends in state and federal policies related to the 21 Critical Health Objectives. This may provide a starting point for policies to consider.
- Improving the Health of Adolescents and Young Adults: A Guide for States and Communities provides comprehensive guidance for planning, implementing and sustaining state and local programs to achieve the 21 Critical Health Objectives (2004, 250 pages). The following chapters may be of special interest, each includes numerous worksheets:
- Chapter 5 – Getting Started: As part of a broad review of program planning, this chapter describes the steps of a needs-and-assets assessment, including identifying the assessment’s goals, collecting and analyzing data, and sharing findings. It also offers guidance for developing a scope of work based on data.
- Chapter 7 – Sustaining the Intervention: The communication section of this chapter discusses communication strategies and methods for information dissemination, including communicating “numbers” to the media.
- Chapter 8 – Federal Resources: This chapter lists federal resources for each of the areas covered by the (documents, organizations, and web sites).
- Non-Federal Resources (2005, 54 pages). This document provides an annotated list of nearly 250 adolescent health resources available from non-federal organizations. Resources address areas such as coalition-building, using data, programs, media, and policy, for the content areas addressed by the 21 Critical Objectives.