Adolescent Health in Texas

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DSHS takes a universal look at adolescent health and well-being. Instead of tackling risky behaviors alone, Adolescent Health focuses on:

  • the overlap between risky behaviors,
  • the common causes,
  • the strengths that a youth has,
  • the adults who support youth, and,
  • successful activities.  

Partners include:

  • State agencies
  • families
  • schools
  • churches
  • communities
  • youth agencies  

Youth work should center on skills youth need to cope with stress and reduce the urge to take risks. We refer to these skills as protective factors.  Work should focus on strengths. The Positive Youth Development (PYD)model is key to health strategies for youth. PYD projects:

  • Develop relationships with caring adults,
  • Supportive interactions with parents,
  • Promote positive connections to school, and,
  • Have opportunities to experiment in healthy ways.  

Research from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that adolescents understand risk. The risk of any given action just fails to stop them because of the benefits they perceive.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  

A distraction is anything that takes your mind and attention away from driving. Be a part of DSHS’ efforts to save lives.  

  • Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of accidental child deaths.
  • Teens are more likely to die in motor vehicle accidents than children of all other ages.

Find out more on these startling facts in the Child Fatality Review’s new report.

There are three main types of distraction:

What you can do about distracted driving:

  • Focus on the road. Focus on driving. Don’t try to do other tasks.
  • Keep distractions out of the car. It is tempting to look at or use your phone. Lock it in the trunk or turn it off.
  • Ask passengers to obey your rules while they are in the car. Make sure they buckle up and don’t distract you.
  • Choose a texter. If you have a passenger, hand over your phone so they can do your texting or talking for you.
  • Be a good passenger by not distracting the driver.
  • Turn your music on low volume before you take your car out of Park.
  • Never use headphones while driving. It’s illegal and dangerous.
  • Keep passengers to one or two.
  • If you don’t feel well enough to drive – don’t. Ask for a ride or wait until you feel better.
  • Know your limitations. Driving experience comes with time. Never feel pressured to drive beyond your experience.  

Let’s Talk About GDL!

Texas Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Laws give new drivers the chance to gain experience. GDL can improve a teen’s driving skills over time in lower risk environments. There are two phases in Texas:

  1. Phase 1 – Learners Permit
  2. Phase 2 - Provisional License where a teen is driving in a controlled environment.

If you are under 18, while driving, you cannot use a wireless communication device until your 18th birthday. Not even a hands-free device. The one exception is in the case of an emergency.

Visit Texas Dept. of Public Safety for more information.

While adolescents are generally healthy, substance abuse and other risky behaviors can be common problems. These health issues can have long-term effects.  

MCH believes that youth and family input is vital to program success in the community. MCH supports state-level projects to promote youth leadership and youth voice.  

The Texas Healthy Adolescent Initiative (THAI) is an example of this. THAI increases youth protective factors. THAI helps youth establish a strong base for adult life. It supports positive life choices. THAI supports Youth-Adult Partnerships. Communities can also use PYD and youth involvement to address community-identified risk factors.  

The Title V Needs Assessment showed the need to improve adolescent well visits too. We work with clinics to:

  • improve the adolescent-friendliness of the clinic,
  • increase the number of youth getting services, and,
  • make the most of health visits to look for potential health issues.

MCH believes that youth sexual violence is a public health problem. According a Center for Disease Control and Prevention Survey, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men suffered rape in their lifetime. One in 2 women and 1 in 5 men were victims of sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lives. A 2015 study conducted by UT (found here) had similar results in Texas.  

We are working to engage youth and unite communities around sexual assault. The main purpose is to prevent sexual violence by using prevention strategies. Examples of how local organizations are doing this include:

  • education for youth,
  • training for parents and other caring adults,
  • training for professionals connected to youth,
  • programs for students, and,
  • training campus personnel.

Education and training can reduce sexual assault on school campuses. Prevention uses activities to address the goals identified in Preventing Sexual Violence in Texas, A Primary Prevention Approach, 2010-2018. In 2016, Texas updated the State Plan. The amendment can be found here.

Department of State Health Services
State Adolescent Health Coordinator
Maternal and Child Health
PO Box 149347, MC 1922
Austin, TX 78714-9347

Telephone 512-776-7373
Fax 512-776-7658 

Last updated March 28, 2018