Empower Young People to Make Healthy Decisions

Reproductive and sexual health for young people is critical to the healthy development of the next generation. Despite the importance of accessible, high-quality health care, many young people in the United States are without the services and support necessary to ensure their health and prosperity during adolescence and adulthood.

Young people are often isolated from education and service provision due to social and familial discomfort surrounding sexuality, policies limiting adolescent access to information and services, structuralized and institutional racism, gender stereotypes, and lack of cultural competency among health providers, school faculty, and other adults who interact with adolescents. The combination of these factors leaves young people ill-informed and isolated from reproductive health services.

These barriers put young people at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancy and birth, non-consensual sexual interactions, early sexual debut, and multiple sexual partners at a young age, with widespread ramifications for adolescents, their families, and their communities. Given these challenges, local advocacy groups and elected and public health officials in urban areas must expand efforts to improve the health of young people in their communities.

Local Recommendations:

Young people need strong, unwavering support from local policy and public health leaders to ensure access to critical reproductive, sexual, and maternal health information and services. Communities must collectively address the primary reproductive, sexual, and maternal health issues facing young people in urban areas. Many local public health departments and policymakers are working to address these issues. These efforts must be expanded and strengthened with renewed support.
Download full focus area brief to read more recommendations.

© 2012 National Institute for Reproductive Health