N.C. Adolescent Health Summit highlights strategies aimed at improving health of 1.4 million 10-20 year olds

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 — Science-based recommendations address issues raised in parent survey

N.C. Adolescent Health Summit highlights strategies aimed at improving health of 1.4 million 10-20 year olds click to enlarge Carol Ford, M.D.

A North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) Task Force, convened to study how to improve adolescent health, released a report today at the first-ever statewide Adolescent Health Summit.

Many of the Task Force’s recommendations address specific needs identified in results of a statewide survey conducted by Action for Children North Carolina. The results were also released today at the summit. The survey identified parent concerns regarding the health of their children.

“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,” said 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.

Survey results and many Task Force recommendations are complementary. For example, 80 percent of parents indicated high interest in receiving more information on safe driving for teens; and the Task Force has a priority recommendation to develop a more comprehensive driver’s education program that integrates the role of parents in educating young drivers.

Over a 17-month period, the 38-member Task Force studied critical adolescent health areas identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These areas include sexual health, substance use and abuse, and mental health among others. “The Task Force took a very close look at ways to translate science into policy, programs and practice to improve adolescent health,” added Ford.

Ten priority recommendations were identified from the more than 30 recommendations developed by the Task Force. The Task Force’s recommendations provide a roadmap for the state to make major improvements over the next decade in adolescent health.

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.

“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.

Key stakeholders from across the state, including legislators, educators, health care providers, public health professionals, parents and youths attended the summit to discuss strategies to ensure implementation of the Task Force recommendations. Speakers at the summit included State Superintendent June Atkinson, Secretary of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler, Senator William Purcell and Representative Susan Fisher.

The full text of the Task Force report is available at http://www.nciom.org/projects/adolescent/adolescent.shtml

The parent survey is available at http://www.ncchild.org.

About the North Carolina Metamorphosis Project

The Task Force was convened by the N.C. Institute of Medicine at the request of the North Carolina Metamorphosis Project, a collaborative effort of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) School of Medicine and Gillings School of Global Public Health, NC Multi-disciplinary Adolescent Research Consortium and Coalition for Adolescent Health (NC MARCH), the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM), the North Carolina Division of Public Health, and Action for Children North Carolina. The Metamorphosis Project is based in the UNC School of Medicine. The project is generously supported by The Duke Endowment. Carol A. Ford, M.D., an associate professor in the School of Medicine and the Gillings School of Public Health, is principal investigator and program director of the Metamorphosis Project. For more information, visit www.med.unc.edu/ncmp/about-ncmp.

About the North Carolina Institute of Medicine

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) is an independent, quasi-state agency that was chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1983 to provide balanced, nonpartisan information on issues of relevance to the health of North Carolina’s population. The NCIOM convenes task forces of knowledgeable and interested individuals to study complex health issues facing the state in order to develop workable solutions to address these issues. For more information, visit www.nciom.org.

About Action for Children North Carolina

Action for Children North Carolina, formerly known as the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute (NCCAI), is a statewide, nonprofit organization devoted to improving the well-being of North Carolina’s children and youth. Action for Children uses highly-credible research, data collection, advocacy and education to influence the knowledge, attitudes and actions of a broad cross-section of people across the state. Action for Children also partners with community leaders to directly influence—in an independent, nonpartisan manner—the attitudes and actions of all people across the state.

Media contacts: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu and Mark Holmes, (919) 428-0270, mark_holmes@nciom.org

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