Because young adults are at the ultimate transition point in the life course model – leaving systems designed for children and adolescents, and entering systems designed for adults – intentionally engaging them in needs assessment and program planning is essential (not just coincidental in the context of adolescent health or broad youth engagement). A few examples of strategies and places are provided here where public health can find and engage young adults, emerging from discussions with state adolescent health coordinators.
WHAT OTHER ORGANIZATIONS OR INITIATIVES IN YOUR STATE OR COMMUNITY HAVE ACCESS TO YOUNG ADULTS THAT PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENGAGING THEM AND/OR ACCESSING EXISTING DATA ON THEIR NEEDS AND ISSUES? WHAT PROGRAMS AND SERVICES IN YOUR STATE INTERACT WITH YOUNG ADULTS ALREADY – SUCH AS HOME VISITING PROGRAMS (YOUNG PARENTS) OR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES AND PROGRAMS?
If you have ideas or examples for engaging young adults in MCH and public health programs, share your ideas with NNSAHC to help us continue building a robust library of strategies for engaging young adults. Email ideas and examples to Rena Large at the State Adolescent Health Resource Center.
Think about where young adults interact with existing MCH programs and services, such as:
College & University Settings
Community colleges provide direct access to services and structures where young adults are already engaging, such as health clinics, peer health education initiatives, and even health vocations programs. In addition to exploring college an university settings in your state, organizations that can help you make connections include:
American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has access to nearly 1,200 2-year, associate degree-granting institutions and more than 12 million students. Some examples of public health partnerships with community colleges:
American College Health Association (ACHA) represents over 1,100 institutions of higher education, representing the collective health and wellness needs of 10 million college students. ACHA’s membership represent the diversity of the higher education community: two- and four-year schools, public and private, large and small, and minority serving institutions. Related resource: College Health as Public Heath: Beyond the Flu Shot, an online self-paced course from AHCA (for a fee) that explores how college health is uniquely situated to advance the health of young adults through a holistic public health model.
The ACHA’s National College Health Assessment is a nationally recognized research survey that can assist you in collecting precise data about college students’ health habits, behaviors, and perceptions. More than 700 colleges and universities across the country participate in the survey (representing more than 1.4 million college students). Public health organizations interested in accessing NCHA data must work through participating colleges and universities to access data (for secondary analysis). For example:
National resource and research initiatives focused on young adults and young adult transition can also provide clues to their needs and how and where to engage them. For example:
Got Transition?/Center for Health Care Transition Improvement is a cooperative agreement between the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health. The center aims to improve transition from pediatric to adult health care through the use of new and innovative strategies for health professionals and youth and families. With a broad range of partners, the center is an extensive and expert source of information on developing youth (often young adults transitioning from adolescence) and parent leadership in advocating for needed transition supports and participating in transition quality improvement efforts. Their website serves as a clearinghouse for current transition information, tools, and resources. Related resources for applying lessons from the special health care needs and transition fields to needs assessments:
Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood (MacArthur Foundation) Established in 1999, and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through 2008, the network both documented the significant cultural, economic, and demographic shifts impacting young adults, and explored how young adults, their families, government, and social institutions might adapt to better meet the needs of young adults in the 21st century. Many of the publications and research generated from the Network are still available and relevant to learning more about where young adults are interacting with society. The home page provides a starting point for finding extensive data, statistics, and explorations of young adult issues and trends in these resources such as:
Many human and social service sytems not only serve youth transitioning to adulthood, but also engage them in program and policy planning. Some examples include: foster care, juvenile justice and behavioral health. Related examples and resources:
Foster Care Alumni of America advocates for opportunities to improve outcomes for alumni of foster care continue beyond age 18 (typical emancipation age) or even age 25 (typically considered the upper end of transition age), providing opportunities for alumni to connect with each other, reducing isolation, increasing the likelihood of permanent family and community and providing perspective and expertise about foster care that is not available anywhere else.
National Council of State Legislatures, Supporting Older Youth in Foster Care Toolkit provides an overview of the issues faced by older youth in foster care as well as policy options and checklists for legislators to consider. It includes several state examples for engaging foster care youth and alumni in state policy initiatives.
American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law - Youth Engagement Project improves outcomes for youth in foster care and young people who have aged out of care. Promotes youth involvement in court cases, permanency and transition planning of older youth.
SAMHSA’s Youth Engagement Guidance: Strategies, Tools and Tips for Supportive and Meaningful Youth Engagement in Federal Government-Sponsored Meetings and Events provides guidance for federal staff and contractors with strategies, tools, and tips for appropriately engaging youth in government sponsored events and meetings in order to: help ensure a positive, supportive, and meaningful experience for youth; support SAMHSA in gaining valuable input and perspectives from youth; and Demonstrate and role model best practices for engaging youth.