Being, Belonging, Becoming: Minnesota's Adolescent Health Action Plan
Extensive work in the field of adolescent health over the past 30 years provides a wealth of information about strategies that effectively support the health and wellbeing of youth. Analyzing and applying the "lessons learned" from this research can assist in making informed decisions about those strategies that most likely have a positive effect on the health of Minnesota adolescents.
Types of Strategies
Four types of strategies have been shown to effectively support the health and well-being of adolescents:
- DECREASING THE RISK FACTORS that contribute to risky behaviors and poor health outcomes.
- INCREASING THE PROTECTIVE FACTORS that contribute to resiliency and healthy outcomes.
- PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES for young people to successfully meet the developmental needs of adolescence.
- BUILDING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES that support and nurture adolescents.
There are a number of characteristics shared by effective adolescent health strategies. These characteristics play out differently depending on whether strategies intervene directly with adolescents and their families or build systems that support healthy youth. But at their core, effective strategies incorporate many of these characteristics:
- Adolescents are viewed as resources to be nurtured and supported, not problems to be fixed.
- Strategies are integrated and coordinated.
- There is a diversity of strategies that focus not only on adolescents, but also on their social environment including families, peers, schools, and communities.
- A combination of prevention, health promotion and healthy youth development (asset-building) strategies are used.
- They are responsive to cultural, ethnic and other forms of diversity.
- They are developmentally appropriate.
- They purposefully focus on building supportive adult-youth relationships.
- They focus on strengthening families.
- They help youth to develop basic life skills.
- They help young people find and become involved in meaningful roles in their communities.
- They strengthen the social supports available to adolescents and their families.
Recommendations for Action
These recommendations for action provide the means to build a nurturing and supportive environment for all teens in Minnesota. They focus on:
- building the capacity of youth by providing caring relationships, positive expectations, opportunities to participate and contribute, and support for healthy behavior;
- developing a comprehensive set of resources that address adolescent health issues;
- strengthening the infrastructure of resources that support healthy youth, families and communities.
The action steps following each recommendation provide more detailed information on ways to act on the recommendation. These steps are intended to be implemented at a variety of different levels:
- INDIVIDUALAND FAMILY-FOCUSED ACTIONS that change the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, skills, practices and behaviors among individuals, either singly or in families, classes or groups.
- COMMUNITY-FOCUSED ACTIONS that change community norms, attitudes, practices and behaviors among a population-of-interest (e.g., target group).
- SYSTEMS-FOCUSED ACTIONS that change organizations, policies, laws, and structures.
Change society's view of adolescents to see youth as resources to be nurtured rather than as problems to be fixed
The goal of this recommendation is to develop a positive view of adolescents among the general public. The action steps promote a view of adolescence focused on the strength and capacity of youth. This view will contribute to an environment that nurtures the health and well-being of Minnesota adolescents.
Educate adults about adolescent health and development
The goal of this recommendation is to increase adult knowledge and skills about adolescence in order to strengthen their capacity to support healthy youth. The action steps focus on training both adults who work formally and informally with teens, and adults who influence policy and funding decisions.
Routinely partner with adolescents to address the issues that affect their health and development
The goal of this recommendation is to engage youth authentically in addressing their issues. Partnership with youth increases the effectiveness of actions because teens understand youth issues in ways that adults do not. It also provides opportunity for youth to be involved in meaningful roles in their communities. The action steps strive to engage the insight, creative ideas, enthusiasm and commitment
Build the capacity of families to support healthy adolescents
The family plays a significant role in nurturing the health and well-being of teens. The goal of this recommendation is to support strong, stable families that have the capacity to nurture healthy children and adolescents. The action steps focus on strategies that reach out to parents and other caregivers to develop strong families from birth through adolescence.
Build the capacity of adolescents to become productive adults
Strengthen schools for students of all ages
Strengthen opportunities that connect teens to the world of work
The goal of this recommendation is to provide adolescents with the opportunities that build a promising future and pathways towards a successful transition into adult roles. The action steps focus on strengthening schools for students of all ages and improving opportunities that connect youth to the world of work.
Develop activities that provide youth with healthy outlets and connections to caring adults
Develop a wide variety of recreational activities for teens
Develop opportunities for teens to give back to their community
Develop opportunities for adults to build supportive relationships with youth, especially those who are struggling
The goal of this recommendation is to involve young people in activities that provide opportunity for:
- healthy experimentation;
- development of critical social skills;
- connections to caring adults;
- involvement in meaningful activities within the community; and
- experience of success.
The action steps focus on opportunities for recreation, community service and civic engagement. They include activities that connect youth with supportive adults.
Improve the responsiveness of physical and mental health care services to adolescent health needs
Strengthen health care services for adolescents and their families
Improve mental health services for adolescents
The goal of this recommendation is to strengthen the health care system to better meet the mental and physical health needs of adolescents. The action steps focus on access to services, increasing the capacity of health care providers to effectively address adolescent health needs, and providing services confidentially while balancing the need to reach out to parents of teens.
Use strategies that are effective in meeting the needs of Minnesota adolescents
Increase the responsiveness of youth programs to the cultural and ethnic diversity of Minnesota youth
Promote the use of "best practices and promising strategies" to build the capacities of all Minnesota youth
The goal of this recommendation is to promote use of actions proven effective to meet the needs of youth. The action steps focus on improving the "fit" between a diverse group of Minnesota teens and the strategies used to address their health needs. They focus on increasing the use of information from research and program evaluation to guide decisions on adolescent health activities, programs and services.
Strengthen the infrastructure of adolescent health resources in Minnesota
Develop commitment to a unified adolescent health agenda focused on building the capacities of all Minnesota youth
Strengthen the connections and relationships between organizations that address adolescent health and healthy development
Improve data on adolescent health and development
Strengthen the evaluation of adolescent health and healthy development activities
Strengthen funding for effective adolescent health and healthy development activities
The goal of this recommendation is to ensure that Minnesota has a structure that supports a comprehensive network of adolescent health resources. These actions steps focus on:
- strengthening commitment to a common adolescent health agenda;
- building relationships between adolescent focused agencies at the state and local levels;
- strengthening adolescent health data and program evaluation; and
- developing stable funding.
Together, these actions move Minnesota from systems that foster a piecemeal approach to adolescent health to one that is coordinated and comprehensive.
Address the social conditions that affect the health of youth, especially racism
The goal of this recommendation is to improve the social conditions that negatively affect the health and well-being of youth and their families. These action steps are based on an understanding that the "fundamental conditions and resources for health are peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable resources, social justice and equity" .
1. WHO Collaborating Centre on Supportive Environments for Health (1986). Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion.