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March 17, 1993

Current Status and Approaches to Improving Preventive Services for Adolescents

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco.

JAMA. 1993;269(11):1408-1412. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500110076039

MUCH of adolescent morbidity and mortality can be attributed to preventable risk factors. These include unhealthy behaviors, such as sedentary life-style, poor nutritional habits, substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, and risky vehicle use.1 Potentially health-damaging behaviors established during adolescence can have lasting negative consequences. As a result, effective preventive measures instituted during adolescence can improve quality of life throughout the life span. Primary care physicians are in a unique position to promote adolescent health and prevent behavioral and other morbidities. Over 70% of adolescents are seen by a physician yearly; three visits per year is the average.2 Adolescents generally view physicians as credible and valued sources of health-related information.3 Physician visits are thus a potentially important source of health education.

As the benefits of incorporating prevention into the practice of medicine have become increasingly apparent over the past 20 or 30 years, efforts to develop comprehensive practice