Adolescents and access to health care

J. D. Klein, G. B. Slap, A. B. Elster, S. E. Cohn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The developmental characteristics and health behaviors of adolescents make the availability of certain services-including reproductive health services, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted disease, mental health and substance abuse counseling and treatment-critically important. Furthermore, to serve adolescents appropriately, services must be available in a wide range of health care settings, including community-based adolescent health, family planning and public health clinics, school-based and school-linked health clinics, physicians' offices, HMOs, and hospitals. National, authoritative content standards (for example, the American Medical Association's Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services (GAPS), a multispecialty, interdisciplinary guideline for a package of clinical preventive services for adolescents may increase the possibility that insurers will cover adolescent preventive services, and that these services will become part of health professionals' curricula and thus part of routine practice. However, additional and specific guidelines mandating specific services that must be available to adolescents in clinical settings (whether in schools or in communities) are also needed. Although local government, parents, providers, and schools must assume responsibility for ensuring that health services are available and accessible to adolescents, federal and state financing mandates are also needed to assist communities and providers in achieving these goals. The limitations in what even comprehensive programs currently are able to provide, and the dismally low rates of preventive service delivery to adolescents, suggests that adolescents require multiple points of access to comprehensive, coordinated services, and that preventive health interventions must be actively and increasingly integrated across health care, school, and community settings. Unless access issues are dealt with in a rational, coordinated fashion, America's adolescents will not have access to appropriate health services. Current efforts to minimize current health care expenditures through managed care programs inevitably conflict with efforts to deliver comprehensive preventive services to all adolescents. Use of multiple sites may not represent inadequate access to care. However, as managed care reimbursement continues to expand, school-based clinics and free-standing adolescent health programs increasingly report decreases in reimbursement without a change in demand for services. The Office of Technology Assessment study called for explicit funding and expansion of services for America's youth; since then, a federal Office of Adolescent Health has been authorized, and, by the time this reaches print, should have received appropriations and been staffed. Dryfoos has called for expansion to nearly 5000 comprehensive programs in the coming years. Additionally, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has just announced a $23.2 million state- community partnership grant program to increase availability of school-based health services for children and youth with unmet health needs. As health care reform efforts move forward, both careful definition of the services adolescents need and adequate financing for these services are essential to ensure access to care for all adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-235
Number of pages17
JournalBulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine: Journal of Urban Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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