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Meeting the health needs of young people
  1. Trust for the Study of Adolescence, 23 New Road, Brighton, Sussex BN1 1WZ, UK (

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    The health needs of young people have been receiving increased attention in recent years. In the UK this has arisen partly because of government initiatives, such as Health of the Nation, Health of the Young Nation, the Young People's Health Network, and so on. However, on the international scene more health professionals are speaking out about this age group and about its special characteristics.

    Until recently it was generally assumed that the health needs of young people were less pressing than the needs of other groups in society. Teenagers were seen as being a relatively healthy lot, and that therefore, although there were clearly special groups within the age cohort, the adolescent population as a whole did not need to be considered a priority in terms of health service delivery. A number of factors have changed this perception. The increased rates of suicide among young men in some countries in the 1980s and early 1990s put the spotlight on the mental health needs of young people, while a continuing concern over the rates of teenage pregnancy has highlighted the need for better sexual health services for this group, as has the rising incidence of various types of sexually transmitted infections in the past few years.

    A further factor that has fuelled debate over the health needs of this age group is the growing body of research that identifies the obstacles faced by young people in their quest of health advice and treatment. Research findings show that there are a number of factors that either inhibit young people from going to the doctor, or that create anxiety among those who do attend. There is uncertainty over policies concerning confidentiality, difficulty in making appointments, and a sense that few GPs have any interest in teenage problems. Findings such as these have led …

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