Position StatementYouth-Friendly Services
Youth-friendly health care must be confidential, equitable, and accessible to increase youths’ utilization of clinical services.
the Healthy Teen Network Board of Directors on
January 11, 2018
Healthy Teen Network maintains that for youth to enjoy their universal right to health care, health care services must be delivered to them in a manner that makes it easy and comfortable for them to seek out and receive the services they need. We consider health care services to be youth-friendly when they are confidential, equitable, and accessible. Offering youth-friendly services is of great importance because it can increase youths’ utilization of clinical services and have positive impacts on their current and future well-being.
Adolescence is a valuable time to teach youth about good health, which should be a primary focus of an adolescent well visit. Issues left untreated can have lasting negative effects. Youth are often hesitant or unable to access adequate health services, especially when it comes to sexual and reproductive health services. Reasons that youth do not receive care include lack of knowledge about services, inability to go to the health care site during operating hours, difficulty finding transportation to health care facilities, poor knowledge about health consequences, concern over privacy, and inability to pay.1 2
Reasons that youth do not receive care include lack of knowledge about services, inability to go to the health care site during operating hours, difficulty finding transportation to health care facilities, poor knowledge about health consequences, concern over privacy, and inability to pay.
This lack of receiving care is particularly problematic since youth are at high risk of experiencing reproductive health issues.3
Providing youth-friendly services can be a lengthy process that takes dedication from staff at every level of the organization. Taking action to become more youth-friendly is critical, however, because it aligns with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) policies regarding full-coverage of contraception, sexually transmitted infection (STI) care, and other preventative services.4 And because health care is a human right, and youth may otherwise not receive the services they need to live a healthy life.
Youth-friendly services share the following key characteristics:
Staff take all possible measures to ensure confidentiality and privacy. Youth are particularly concerned about breaches of confidentiality and often cite concerns about lack of confidentiality as a barrier to seeking care.5 Ways of increasing confidentiality and privacy of services include using numbers instead of names in the waiting room and recording a preferred method of communication for sharing test results and appointment reminders. Providers should also make sure that when youth are referred to other facilities for care, those facilities are also youth-friendly and have the same standards of confidentiality and privacy.
Services are available to all youth, regardless of age, gender, relationship status (i.e., that is, regardless of marital status), citizenship status, sexual orientation, etc. All patients are offered the same services. For example, contraception is available to all girls, not only to girls who are married. Additionally, staff are accepting and welcoming of youth with diverse lifestyles. Staff refrain from imposing their own beliefs on patients and treat all patients respectfully.6
Services are offered in evenings and on weekends when youth are not at school or working. The health care site is accessible by public transportation if possible. Posting information about expanding hours for youth patients and when services are offered can improve accessibility. Offering affordable pricing, such as a sliding scale, and clearly stating which services are free and which are not also improves accessibility. It is also important to offer a full range of preventative and reproductive health services, as well as efficiently refer patients to other facilities for social services, mental health care, and specialty care. For example, implementing a way of tracking and following up with youth about referrals helps youth navigate between multiple organizations.
Authors: Senderowitz, J., Hainsworth, G., and Solter, C.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, September 26). 2016 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance. Available from www.cdc.gov/std/stats16/adolescents.htm
3 Senderowitz, J., Solter, C., & Hainsworth, G. (2002). Clinic assessment of youth friendly services: A tool for assessing and improving. Watertown: Pathfinder International. Available from www.pathfinder.org/publications-tools/pdfs/Clinic-Assessment-of-Youth-Friendly-Services-A-Tool-for-Improving-Reproductive-Health-Services-for-Youth.pdf?x=50&y=14
4 National Women’s Law Center. (2015). Contraceptive coverage in the health care law: Frequently asked questions. Washington D.C.: National Women’s Law Center. Available from www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/ contraceptive_coverage_in_the_health_care_law_frequently_asked_questions.pdfv3_.pdf
5 Senderowitz, J., Hainsworth, G., & Solter, C. (2003). A rapid assessment of youth-friendly reproductive health services. Technical Guidance Series (4). Watertown: Pathfinder International. Available from www.pathfinder.org/publications-tools/pdfs/Technical-Guidance-Series-Number-4-A-Rapid-Assessment-of-Youth-Friendly-Reproducive-Health-Services-1.pdf
6 International Planned Parenthood Federation. (2011). Keys to youth-friendly services: Celebrating diversity. London: (Author). Available from www.ippf.org/resource/Celebrating-diversity