iStock_000004330324XSmallAdolescence is a critical period of change. It is a time when teens develop life skills needed to successfully transition from childhood to adulthood that includes physical, intellectual and emotional changes. Adolescents who receive preventive health care are more likely to graduate from high school, and are more prepared to make that successful transition to adulthood.  During these preventive visits adolescents can meet with their providers to be screened for many important things like immunizations, weight management, and alcohol, drug and tobacco prevention. They also have the opportunity to ask their provider the sometimes difficult questions about their health.

On June 2 our Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health convened a group of stakeholder to assess and map health care improvement strategies for Arizona’s young people. Kristen Teipel, Director of the Adolescent Health National Resource Center, University of Minnesota, facilitated the meeting. We were fortunate to have representatives from the Maricopa County Department of Public HealthMariposa Community Health Center, the Arizona Department of EducationMaricopa Integrated Health SystemUnited HealthcarePhoenix Children’s Hospital and The Arizona Partnership for Immunizations.

Ms. Teipel led the group through the current health care system including a discussion of barriers to care for adolescents such as office hours outside of school, lack of teen friendly offices, and a lack of understanding by teens as to why these visits are important for their overall health. The group explored strategies that are being employed nationally to see what might work in their own practices and agreed to continue this important work. Future work will be tied into the strategies selected by the State Health Improvement Plan to increase impact for our state’s younger population.