N.C. Task Force Highlights Strategies to Improve Teen Health

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A task force from the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) has issued a report with recommendations on improving adolescent health. The group is part of the first statewide Adolescent Health Summit held in Chapel Hill, NC.

Over a 17-month period, the 38-member Task Force studied Critical Health Objectives as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which included sexual health, substance use, mental health, and the prevention of chronic diseases during adulthood. In addition, parents were surveyed by the Action for Children North Carolina (formerly known as the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute) and asked about their specific needs for children between the ages of 10 and 20.

The key findings of the 2009 Portrait of Adolescent Health in North Carolina include a lack of healthy foundations through supportive family or other adults and participation in unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol or sexual activity. One of the most positive results of the report found that smoking among adolescents had declined by 20% since 2003.

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More than 30 recommendations were developed. Ten of these were identified as priority, which will provide the state a roadmap for making major improvements over the next decade in adolescent health.

“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s future. We have to invest in adolescents today to ensure they develop the skills and knowledge needed to be healthy and productive adults,” said Pam Silberman, CEO and president of the NCIOM.

“North Carolina needs its young people between the ages of 10 and 20 to be healthy, on track in their lives, and well-prepared for adulthood. And not surprisingly, the survey showed parents want this, too. Implementing the NCIOM Task Force recommendations will go a long way towards making this happen,” added Dr. Carol Ford, director of adolescent medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She leads the N.C. Metamorphosis Project, which commissioned the Task Force and the survey.

The Task Force’s 10 priority recommendations include:
1. Funding programs that evidence shows are effective in improving health behaviors or outcomes.
2. Funding school-based health services in middle and high schools, including school-based health centers, school nurses and child and family support teams.
3. Studying how other states have increased high school graduation rates and presenting a plan for increasing N.C. graduation rates by April 2010.
4. Enhancing North Carolina Healthy Schools Partnership by including a local healthy schools coordinator in each local education agency.
5. Developing pilot programs to improve driver’s education.
6. Ensuring availability of substance abuse and mental health services for adolescents.
7. Providing programs and services proven effective for youth involved in or at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system.
8. Expanding teen pregnancy and STD prevention programs and social marketing campaigns.
9. Supporting a comprehensive tobacco control program for the state, including increasing all tobacco taxes, requiring all worksites and public places to be smoke-free, and ensuring availability of tobacco cessation services for adolescents.
10. Improving school nutrition in middle and high schools.

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