Healthy People 2020 & Adolescent Health

Christine Runion

Christine Runion

For the past 30 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been publishing a framework for public health in attempt to improve our nation’s health. As the field progresses, we have all become aware that the key to teen pregnancy and HIV prevention encompasses more than just sexual education: it includes bullying prevention, access to health care, positive relationship reinforcement, and more… it includes all aspects of healthy teens!

And that’s why we’re so excited that, for the first time ever, the Healthy People Initiative, Healthy People 2020 (HP2020), released a little more than a year ago, includes the topic Adolescent Health. HHS highlights adolescent issues such as sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and teen and unplanned pregnancies.

Is anyone else thinking “RAISE THE ROOF?” or “Totally awesome?” ….Wait, what are kids saying these days?

No matter what exclamatory phrase you choose, I think we can all agree that it’s about time! Adolescents (ages 10-19) and young adults (ages 20-24) make up a whopping 21 percent of the population. That’s one in five people! And we all know that habits and lifestyle choices made in our brain-shaping and sometimes awkward, confusing, and crazy youth can shape us for life. So let’s support teens to make them good ones.

And how can we ensure that these lifestyle choices are beneficial to the teens making them? By getting involved with HP2020, of course! Whether you are in the field, in the classroom, looking to make an impact in your community, or even within your own family, there are many ways in which you can incorporate the HHS adolescent health objectives:

  • Use the objectives to see where your population stands in relation to the nation.
  • Use the objectives to help inform your organization’s strategic plan.
  • Use the objectives to help inform resource allocation within your organization.
  • Develop collaborative partnerships across the six topic areas to maximize your access to funding and your impact on your population.
  • Use the objectives to help determine if your organization’s activities, ranging from programming to education to advocacy, are meeting all of your population’s needs.

Many organizations used HP2010’s Critical Health Objectives (CHOs) to inform their work and boast remarkable results:

“We are a multi-issue organization and the CHOs really validated a holistic approach to adolescent health.” – The California Adolescent Health Collaborative

“We are using the CHOs to break down barriers between these segregated adolescent health issues. It is helpful that there is a national initiative like HP2010 and the CHOs that also take this approach.” – Alabama Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

To read more about success stories related to HP2010, check out Healthy Teen Network’s Healthy People 2020 and Adolescent Health: A Primer.

How to Get/Stay Involved

Organizations (and individuals) can use the same tactics for getting involved with HP2020 as others did for HP2010. The HHS publishes tools and resources useful for those wishing to utilize the HHS’s objectives—and keep adolescent health on the list of topics for decades to come!

Visit the Healthy People Initiative website for updates and more information.

A full list of the objectives for Adolescents is available online.

To get more ideas on how to implement these objectives in your organization, click here.

You can access the resource Improving the Health of Adolescents and Young Adults, another comprehensive CDC resource for adolescent health.

Christine Runion is a Marketing and Communications Associate at Healthy Teen Network.

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