All young people experience important developmental milestones on their path to becoming healthy adults, and while this time of change is full of promise, it can be a time of increased vulnerability or risk. Because they are in developmental transition, adolescents and young adults are particularly sensitive to environmental influences. Environmental factors, including family, peer group, school, neighborhood, policies, and societal cues, can either put youth at risk or support their health and well-being. For system-involved youth, navigating this time of change can be fraught with even more challenges or barriers. Without strong family and social networks, this vulnerable population may face increased risk of engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners, as well as mental health and substance use and abuse issues. Promoting healthy practices during adolescence and taking steps to better protect young people, especially those from vulnerable populations; from health risks are critical for the prevention of health problems in adulthood.
With a focus on the social determinants of health and of risk and protective factors, PARI serves to:
- Increase the visibility and knowledge base for adolescent health issues through better data collection and information sharing at the national, state, and local levels; and,
- Increase the capacity, through advocacy and training, of child welfare and juvenile services professionals, health care providers, researchers, policymakers, and others to appropriately and effectively prevent, identify and respond to adolescent health needs.