Encourage Physical Health and Healthy Decision-Making During Adolescence

Published May 2022

May is National Adolescent Health Month (NAHM). During this observance, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) is emphasizing 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.

In addition to promoting sexual and reproductive health information and services and positive mental health, supporting physical health and healthy decision-making is a key focus of National Adolescent Health Month. Adolescence is the time for youth to form positive habits that will improve their long-term health and well-being. As adolescents begin to take more responsibility and make more choices about their health, parents, caregivers, and youth-serving professionals can support them with education, skills training, and coaching. It is important for teens to take care of their physical health by making healthy food choices, engaging in physical activity, limiting social media use, and fully participating in their own healthcare, including making appointments and staying up to date on vaccinations.

OPA has resources on physical health in developing adolescents, healthy behavior, eating disorders, substance use and underage drinking, reproductive health and contraception, and teen pregnancy prevention programs.

Parents and caregivers can use these tips when talking to adolescents about relationships and pregnancy prevention. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a campaign called “Talk. They Hear You.” that provides information and resources on underage drinking and other substance use.

OPA's Title X family planning clinics provide youth with access to free or low-cost, high quality, confidential, and youth-friendly reproductive and essential preventive health services. For many clients, Title X clinics are their only ongoing source of healthcare and health education. These clinics provide preventive health services that are not only beneficial for reproductive health but also for physical health. Title X clinics can screen for obesity, smoking, drug and alcohol use, mental health, and intimate partner violence. Use the Title X clinic locator to find a clinic near you


Title X Clinic Locator image

OPA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program grantees also work to encourage physical health and healthy decision-making. For example, Carlos Albizu University and its partners implement the Puerto Rico Optimal System ChAnge (PROSa) program which not only provides pregnancy prevention curricula but also comprehensive supportive services to youth, families, and community members in Puerto Rico. PROSa created a new program on Instagram where teens can ask sexual health and other health questions that they may be reluctant to ask their parents, teachers, or doctors. Experts provide answers and health information to promote healthy decision-making.

The West Virginia Family Planning Program, an OPA Title X grantee, helps teens make healthy choices through their Real Talk video series. The videos serve as conversation starters and help equip parents, teachers, and youth leaders to be valuable resources for adolescents by facilitating healthy conversations, fostering learning opportunities, and creating chances to build skills and increase knowledge.