The HHS Office of Population Affairs’ (OPA) annual May observance is now called National Adolescent Health Month (NAHM). Beginning in 2022, this observance emphasizes the importance of building on young people’s strengths and potential, encouraging and supporting meaningful youth engagement in adolescent health activities, and highlighting key topics in adolescent health.
Adolescent health is a broad term that encompasses many aspects of health and well-being, including sexual and reproductive health, mental health, physical health, and the amount and type of care that young people access and receive. Young people should be empowered to make decisions about their own health and programs and services should offer resources, tools, and skills that adolescents need to make informed decisions. Each year, NAHM will have different themes that explore the many factors that contribute to promoting and supporting adolescent health.
The NAHM 2022 themes were:
OPA recognizes that making investments in adolescent health and well-being will generate a “triple benefit” for society: investing in adolescents creates healthier youth today, healthier adolescents become healthier adults, and healthier adults set the foundation for healthier future generations when they become parents, guardians, and caretakers.1
During NAHM and all year long, we must strengthen relationships with young people and connect youth to services and opportunities that build on their strengths and potential.2
NAHM 2022 Announcement
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs and Director of the Office of Adolescent Health Jessica Swafford Marcella announced NAHM in a blog post about why the observance was renamed, the process OPA used to gather feedback, and how OPA planned to celebrate NAHM during its inaugural month.
A Message from Admiral Levine
HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel L. Levine invited viewers to celebrate NAHM and support adolescents’ health now and into the future.
Themes for NAHM 2023 will be announced in early spring 2023. As in 2022, NAHM 2023 will address a different theme each week to allow participants to engage with the many facets of adolescent health. During NAHM 2022, the following themes were addressed:
Week 1, May 2, 2022
Empower youth with sexual and reproductive health information and services
Ensuring adolescent health requires equipping youth with the sexual and reproductive health information and services needed to empower healthy decision-making. During adolescence, youth grow physically, try new activities, begin to think more critically, and develop more varied and complex relationships. While the teen birth rate has decreased since the 1990s, in 2019, 38.4 percent of all high school students reported that they had ever had sexual intercourse.3 Additionally, adolescents ages 15-24 account for nearly half of the 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year.4 The teen birth rates are especially high among youth in certain settings, such as youth in foster care,5 youth who are homeless, parenting teens, and LGBTQ+ youth. Connecting youth to reproductive services and information can build on their strengths and support adolescent health. It is critical to give teens the sexual and reproductive health information and services they need to make informed decisions about their health.
Share messages to empower youth with sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Week 2, May 9, 2022
Support mental health and well-being
Mental health is an essential part of overall health. Adolescents live in varied environments and face challenges that affect their mental health and well-being. Young people can face social and economic inequality, discrimination, violence, and other factors that can negatively affect mental health. While technology increases access to information and resources and can make it easier to build communities and stay connected, researchers have linked social media use to anxiety and depression.6 In 2019, one in three high school students and half of female students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.7 The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these issues for today's young people: unprecedented disruptions in routines and relationships have led to increased social isolation, anxiety, and learning loss. Supporting adolescents’ mental health can help address societal concerns, strengthen their resilience, and mitigate negative impacts on mental health.8
Share messages to support adolescent mental health and well-being.
Week 3, May 16, 2022
Encourage physical health and healthy decision-making
Adolescence is the time for youth to form positive habits that will improve their long-term health and well-being. As adolescents begin taking more responsibility and making more choices about their health, it is important for them to make healthy food choices, be physically active, limit social media use, and fully participate in their own healthcare, including making appointments with healthcare providers and staying up to date on vaccinations. Parents, caregivers, and youth-serving adults can encourage and support physical health and healthy decision-making during adolescence by providing teens with education, skills training, and coaching in how to navigate the healthcare system and solve problems. Supporting healthy behavior today can strengthen health for adolescents into adulthood.
Share messages to encourage physical health and healthy decision-making.
Week 4, May 23, 2022
Sustain equitable, accessible, youth-friendly services
Youth need access to equitable, high-quality healthcare services. Unfortunately, many young people stop healthcare visits after leaving pediatric care because they do not have the support they need to transition to the adult healthcare system. Young people—especially those with chronic conditions and disabilities—can experience serious gaps in care as they get older. Young people who experience homelessness, foster care, and the juvenile justice system and who live in mixed immigration status households can have a difficult time obtaining healthcare.9 Access to healthcare services is essential, and it is important for parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers to help adolescents learn to use the healthcare system and obtain the services they need.
Healthcare providers should offer welcoming, responsive, and youth-friendly care by providing accessible locations and hours, creating a warm and respectful environment, ensuring opportunities for confidential, one-on-one conversations, and encouraging youth to involve their parents or caregivers while also respecting their privacy. Parents and caregivers can teach adolescents about their health history, help them prepare for healthcare visits, and discuss with adolescents what to expect from their healthcare appointments.10
Share messages to sustain equitable, accessible, youth-friendly services.
NAHM 2022 #OPAGranteeYouthTakeover on Twitter
Revisit OPA’s second annual Youth Twitter Takeover! Young people “took over” OPA’s Twitter account (@HHSPopAffairs) to share insights into their daily lives and their experiences with two of OPA's Teen Pregnancy Prevention programs:
OPA Grantee Highlights
OPA’s grantees are working to support all components of adolescent health. Teen Pregnancy Prevention program grantees serve almost 200,000 youth each year. Nearly 20 percent of all Title X family planning clinic grantee clients–or approximately 50.8 million youth each year—are adolescents.
Learn More About TPP Grantees
OPA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program grantees implement effective programs that focus on developing positive outcomes for adolescents, including supporting positive youth development, preventing sexually transmitted infections, building healthy relationships, and more. TPP programs teach adolescents more than just teen pregnancy prevention; they help adolescents build life skills and set goals for healthy futures.
Carlos Albizu University
Carlos Albizu University and its partners implement the Puerto Rico Optimal System ChAnge (PROSa) program, providing pregnancy prevention curricula and comprehensive supportive services to youth, families, and community members in Puerto Rico. PROSa implements four curricula: Adult Identity Mentoring, Friends Resilience, Love Notes, and Parenting Fundamentals.
EyesOpenIowa implements Iowans Optimizing Adolescent Health, which promotes optimal adolescent health and reduces rates of teen pregnancy and STIs by providing sexual health education and an array of supportive services for youth and their families in Des Moines, Iowa.
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Inc.
Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, Inc.’s (PPGNY) Project SHINE aims to explore, develop, test, refine, evaluate, and disseminate innovative teen pregnancy prevention programming for teens and young adults ages 16-24 in New York City with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities (ID), as well as their families and the professionals who serve them.
Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation
The Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation implements Connect Spartanburg, a project to prevent risk-taking behaviors and promote optimal adolescent health in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. The project aims to increase protective factors through proven effective curricula that target youth and families/caregivers.
Learn More About Title X Grantees
OPA's Title X family planning services grantees provide adolescents with access to reproductive and preventive health services, and in many cases, Title X clinics are the only ongoing source of healthcare and health education for young people. Title X projects may also provide other reproductive health and related preventive health services that are beneficial to reproductive health such as HPV vaccination, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), breast and cervical cancer screening, and screening for obesity, smoking, drug and alcohol use, mental health, and intimate partner violence.
Adagio Health has been working to ensure that its Title X services are youth friendly. Adagio has both Title X and TPP grants and has been enhancing connections between the two programs. For example, Adagio works to increase referrals to Title X services for youth in its foster care TPP program.
West Virginia Title X Family Planning Program
The West Virginia Title X Family Planning Program is helping teens make healthy choices. They developed the Real Talk video series, which serves as conversation starters to help parents, teachers, and youth leaders equip themselves to be good sexual and reproductive health resources for adolescents by facilitating healthy conversations, fostering learning opportunities, and creating chances to build skills and increase knowledge.
Reproductive Health National Training Center
The Reproductive Health National Training Center (RHNTC) provides technical assistance and support for the Title X community and TPP grantees. It now has a wide array of resources that are for free to all. The RHNTC exists to ensure that personnel working in OPA-funded Title X and TPP projects have the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver high-quality services and programs.
1 The Lancet. (2016, May 11). Our future: a Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing. https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/adolescent-health-and-wellbeing back to top
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adolescent connectedness. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/protective/youth-connectedness-important-protective-factor-for-health-well-being.htm back to top
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. YRBSS data summary & trends: Trends report. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/yrbs_data_summary_and_trends.htm#anchor_1612890189 back to top
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, July 30). STDs in adolescents and young adults. https://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/stdfact-teens.htm back to top
6 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General. (2021). Protecting youth mental health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory. https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-youth-mental-health-advisory.pdf back to top
7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance data summary & trends report: 2009-2019. https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/dear_colleague/2020/dcl-102320-YRBS-2009-2019-report.html back to top
9 Bonnie RJ, Stroud C, Breiner H, editors. Investing in the health and well-being of young adults. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Jan 27. 7, The Health Care System. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK284795/ back to top
10U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2022, April 8). Make the most of your teen’s visit to the doctor (ages 15 to 17). https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/doctor-visits/regular-checkups/make-most-your-teens-visit-doctor-ages-15-17 back to top