April 17, 2014
Deerfield, IL — Adolescents are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, HIV or unintended pregnancy than any other age group. That’s why it’s critical that young people have unconstrained access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services. In its position paper published this month, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) asserts that such access constitutes a basic human right for all adolescents and young adults and is a critical part of addressing this population’s general health.
“Every person goes through puberty and adolescent development, and every person deserves the right to achieve healthy sexual development. This can only happen if each young person going through this critical period is supported by all the people in his or her life — including the healthcare community,” says Arik Marcell, MD, MPH, an adolescent medicine specialist in Baltimore, MD and one of the paper’s contributing authors. “Comprehensive sexuality education programs play an essential role in helping young people be successful in all aspects of their lives and reach their full potential as adults.”
Research shows that access to SRH information for young people reduces negative health consequences and minimizes high-risk behaviors. As the leading organization dedicated to the health of adolescents and young adults, SAHM offers specific, important recommendations for parents and caregivers, youth-serving professionals in schools and communities, healthcare providers and systems, researchers, and policy makers on how best to promote and support the sexual and reproductive health education of all young people.
Highlighted positions within the paper include:
- Adolescents should have universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services that are evidence-based, confidential, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive.
- Healthcare providers should have the knowledge and skills to deliver sexual and reproductive health services that have been proven effective in clinical settings.
- Providers should encourage developmentally appropriate communication about sexual and reproductive health between parents/caregivers and their children.
- Access to SRH should be available to all adolescents, regardless of socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, intellectual or physical ability, gender, sex, or geographic location.
Other key recommendations in the paper concern parental consent and notification, increased attention to LGBTQ issues, development of outreach strategies to transient youth, and the adoption of new technologies to deliver SRH services.
The complete position paper appears in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health; a PDF is available for download. To obtain more information or to speak to an expert, contact Justin Dreyfuss at SAHM headquarters, +1-847-753-5226 x351.
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine is a multidisciplinary organization of health professionals who are committed to advancing the health and well-being of adolescents. Through education, research, clinical services and advocacy activities, members of SAHM strive to enhance public and professional awareness of adolescent health issues among families, educators, policy makers, youth-serving organizations, students who are considering a health career, as well as other health professionals. Learn more at www.adolescenthealth.org.