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Adolescent Health

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Adolescence is a crucial period with marked physical, emotional and intellectual changes, as well as changes in social roles, relationships and expectations. All of these are important for the development of the individual and provide the foundation for adulthood. Establishing healthy behavior is a vital part of this foundation.

Adolescents are not just teenagers. Adolescents and young adults include 10 - 24 year olds in three developmental stages: early adolescence (10-14 years of age); middle adolescence (15-17 years of age), later adolescence and young adulthood (18-24 years of age).

Improving the health of adolescents and young adults is a priority for Iowa. Lifestyle behaviors developed during adolescence have immediate consequences that often continue into adulthood. These behaviors influence short- and long-term prospects for health, educational attainment, risk of chronic disease, and quality of life. Investment in the health of youth has long-term benefits.

There are 21 critical health objectives for adolescents and young adults. The Data Project to Improve Adolescent and Young Adult Health: National and State Profiles ("The Data Project") is located at: This online tool presents national- and state-level profiles of key measures of adolescent and young adult health, using Healthy People 2010's 21 Critical Health Objectives for Adolescents and Young Adults. The data cover six areas: mortality, unintentional injury, violence, substance abuse and mental health, reproductive health and prevention of chronic disease.


  • Reduce deaths

Unintentional injury

  • Reduce deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes
  • Reduce deaths and injuries caused by alcohol- and drug-related motor vehicle crashes
  • Increase use of safety belts
  • Reduce the proportion who report that they rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol


  • Reduce homicides
  • Reduce physical fighting among adolescents
  • Reduce weapon carrying on school property

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

  • Reduce the suicide rate
  • Reduce the rate of suicide attempts that required medical attention
  • Reduce the proportion of those with disabilities who are reported to be sad, unhappy, or depressed
  • Increase the proportion of those with mental health problems who receive treatment
  • Reduce the proportion engaging in binge drinking of alcoholic beverages
  • Reduce past-month use of illicit substances (marijuana)

Reproductive Health

  • Reduce pregnancies
  • Reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses
  • Reduce the proportion with Chlamydia trachomatis infections
  • Increase the proportion who abstain from sexual intercourse or use condoms, if sexually active

Chronic Diseases

  • Reduce tobacco use
  • Reduce the proportion who are overweight or obese
  • Increase the proportion who engages in vigorous physical activity that promotes cardio respiratory fitness 3 or more days per week for 20 or more minutes per occasion.

Healthy Youth!

Societal Influences on Adolescents and Young Adults

Behaviors of young people are influenced at the individual, peer, family, school, community, and societal levels. Because many societal factors contribute to adolescent health, safety, and well-being, a collaborative effort engaging multiple partners and sectors is necessary. Such joint efforts can also help to promote a more comprehensive approach to addressing adolescent health-one that views adolescents as whole persons, recognizing and drawing upon their assets and not just focusing on their risks.

Health Topics

See Health Topics for information on six critical types of adolescent health behavior that research shows contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among adults and youth-alcohol and drug use, injury and violence (including suicide), tobacco use, nutrition, physical activity, and sexual behaviors.

Other important issues that affect children and adolescents are also addressed, including asthma, childhood overweight, food safety, mental health, skin cancer, and terrorism.


  • The Adolescent Brain: Still Under Construction  This item links to an outside page
  • Iowa Youth Survey  This item links to an outside page
    The State of Iowa reports are designed to help state-level planners identify youth development-related needs, develop relevant programs and assess the outcomes of those programs. These data can help us better understand our youth and their needs. They can help us assess the strengths and weaknesses of our schools, families and communities from the young person's perspective. In addition, the data can help the state obtain funds for a wide variety of programs.
  • Iowa Youth Risk Behavior Survey  This item links to an outside page
    The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System is an epidemiologic system established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help monitor the prevalence of behaviors that put youth at risk for the most serious health and social problems that can occur during adolescence and adulthood. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is the measurement instrument of this system. This survey is used by the state of Iowa to monitor these behaviors among its young people. Specifically, this survey focuses on students who are attending public schools (regular and alternative, Grades 9-12).
  • You Are Not Alone  Adobe Acrobat Logo
    The 76th Iowa General Assembly established the Decision Making Assistance Program, which is intended to assist pregnant minors in making informed decisions concerning their pregnancies. A minor is defined by law as "a person under 18 years of age who has not been and is not married". A video and accompanying handbook entitled You Are Not Alone: Making An Informed Decision were developed to assist with this process. The legislation also established procedures for the notification of a parent, legal guardian, or grandparent of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours prior to the performance of an abortion. For complete detail, please refer to Iowa Code Chapter 135L and accompanying rules in the Iowa Administrative Code 641-89.

    The stated mission of the Decision Making Assistance Program is to make available "a factual, age-appropriate, culturally diverse video and written materials from a balanced viewpoint for all options; materials that are medically accurate, unbiased, and presented in an objective, empathetic, non-directive manner to assist the minor in the decision-making process". The You Are Not Alone: Making An Informed Decision video and accompanying handbook contain information regarding the following options available to the pregnant minor:
    • Terminating the pregnancy through abortion;
    • Continuing the pregnancy to term and retaining parental rights; and
    • Continuing the pregnancy to term and placing the child for adoption.
  • Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development  This item links to an outside page
    Iowans benefit when all youth are engaged and contributing in their communities. Experiences and connections children and youth have growing up affect their success in school, in work, and in life.

    By partnering with communities and youth throughout the state, the Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development is creating a better Iowa today and in the future.
  • New Teen Suicide Prevention Campaign Launched  This item links to an outside page
    A new multimedia teen suicide prevention campaign was launched by the federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on April 1, 2010. SAMHSA launched the We Can Help Us campaign in partnership with the Ad Council, and the Inspire USA Foundation. This multimedia campaign will include television, radio, print and interactive public service announcements as well as in-school and mall posters that are targeting 13-17 year-olds. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds, and for every suicide death in this age group, an estimated 100 to 200 teens attempt suicide. This prevention campaign hopes to raise awareness in teens that are contemplating suicide that there are resources they can turn to and other teens that have contemplated suicide and made it through.

    We Can Help Us encourages young people to visit the website,, that highlights success stories and teen coping strategies. Each page on includes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for teens that need immediate support.
  •  This item links to an outside page
    The Federal Source for Women's Health Information ... of young adolescent girls (ages 9 to 13) improve family eating and activity habits.

    BodyWorks is a program designed to help parents and caregivers of adolescents improve family eating and activity habits. Available in English and Spanish, the program focuses on parents as role models and provides them with hands-on tools to make small, specific behavior changes to prevent obesity and help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Health Information for Girls  This item links to an outside page
    This site was created to help girls (ages 10-16) learn about health, growing up, and issues they may face. It focuses on health topics that girls are concerned about and helps motivate them to choose healthy behaviors by using positive, supportive, and non-threatening messages. The site gives girls reliable, useful information on the health issues they will face as they become young women and tips on handling relationships with family and friends, at school and at home.
  • The Center for Young Women's Health (CYWH) is a collaboration between the Division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine and the Division of Gynecology at Children's Hospital Boston. The Center is an educational entity that exists to provide teen girls and young women with:
  • (YMH) is a website produced by the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston. The purpose of the website is to provide carefully researched health information to teenage boys and young men.

For more information:

  • Analisa Pearson, Nurse Clinician
    Lucas State Office Bldg.
    Des Moines, IA 50319-0075
    Voice: (515) 281-7519
    Fax: (515) 242-6013
  • You may also use the "Contact Us" page to submit questions online.