Improving Access to and Utilization of Adolescent Preventive Health Care

The Perspectives of Adolescents

Published In: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 47, no. 2, Aug. 2010, p. 133-142

Posted on RAND.org on August 01, 2010

by Tumaini Coker, Harvinder G Sareen, Paul J. Chung, David P. Kennedy, Beverly A. Weidmer, Mark A. Schuster

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PURPOSE: To examine the perspectives of publicly insured adolescents and their parents on ways to encourage adolescent utilization of preventive health services. METHODS: We conducted eight focus groups with 77 adolescents enrolled in a large Medicaid managed care plan in Los Angeles County, California, and two focus groups with 21 of their parents. Discussions were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using the constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. RESULTS: Adolescents and parents reported that the most effective way to encourage preventive care utilization among teens was to directly address provider-level barriers related to the timeliness, privacy, confidentiality, comprehensiveness, and continuity of their preventive care. They reported that incentives (e.g., cash, movie tickets, gift cards) might also be an effective way to increase preventive care utilization. To improve adolescent receipt of surveillance and guidance on sensitive health-related topics, most adolescents suggested that the best way to encourage clinician–adolescent discussion was to increase private face-to-face discussions with a clinician with whom they had a continuous and confidential relationship. Adolescents reported that the use of text messaging, e-mail, and Internet for providing information and counseling on various sensitive health-related topics would also encourage adolescent utilization of preventive health services. Parents, however, more often preferred that their teen receive these services through in-office discussions and clinician-provided brochures. CONCLUSIONS: State agencies, health plans, clinics, and individual providers may consider focusing their efforts to improve adolescents' utilization of preventive services on basic structural and quality of care issues related to the clinician–patient relationship, access to services, and confidentiality.

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