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Guidelines for adolescent preventive services

Arthur Elster, MD
Section Editor
Diane Blake, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


The health status and health behaviors of adolescents have been monitored closely for many years [1-4]. Although improvement has been noted in certain indicators, compared with other age groups, adolescent health has failed to respond to the range of interventions developed for schools, communities, and the health system.

Unintentional injuries such as automobile crashes, intentional injuries such as homicide and suicide, and reproductive health issues such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections remain the leading causes of adolescent morbidity and mortality. Alcohol and drug use contribute to many of these injuries and deaths. Obesity has become a major cause of adolescent morbidity and is a contributor to a dramatic increase in the number of youth with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Tobacco use causes harm during the teen years, and can lead to nicotine addiction that results in major morbidity and mortality later in life. The common denominator in this list is that most adolescent morbidity and mortality is related to personal behavior and, as such, is preventable.

The preventable nature of all of these conditions provides a clear mandate to pediatric healthcare providers. The challenge is to integrate preventive services into routine medical care. Practitioners can use clinic visits for routine examinations, such as preparticipation athletic evaluations and chronic disease management, to provide a range of preventive services. These clinical encounters offer an opportunity for early identification of risk behavior and disease, updating immunizations, and offering health guidance. Clinical preventive services are an adjunct to preventive interventions provided through schools and in the community.


The purpose of preventive services is to reduce serious morbidity and premature mortality both during adolescence and in later years. Preventive services typically fall into four categories: screening, counseling to reduce risk, providing immunizations, and giving general health guidance. In addition, a recommendation for how frequently routine visits should occur usually is included. Various organizations have developed or revised guidelines that are designed to enable practitioners to identify and address specific health problems and behaviors that cause the greatest burden of suffering among adolescents:

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) – Guide to Clinical Preventive Services [5].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 07, 2017.
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