If one message bubbled up from the 2009 North Carolina Adolescent Health Summit, it was this: Now is the time for action.
Organizers used the summit, held on a December day in Chapel Hill, N.C., to release a 246-page report from the North Carolina Institute of Medicine Task Force on Adolescent Health (December 2009) (pdf). Some 200 people attended, including doctors, educators, health directors, researchers, social workers and elected officials.
Speakers looked at the current state of adolescent health in North Carolina and outlined highlights from the report. In the afternoon, participants formed groups to discuss strategies for improvement.
The tone was optimistic, but urgent. “This is a critical time for a united chorus,” said keynote speaker Michael Resnick, director of research in the Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine at the University of Minnesota. “We have a critical window of opportunity.”
Dr. Carol Ford, one of the task force’s three co-chairs, said the one-day summit was “the culmination of two years of work … to help us understand where we are in terms of adolescent health in the state of North Carolina.”
She described the event as “terribly exciting” because it brought together a wide range of people who were all committed to making a difference for adolescents in North Carolina.
“It was a lot of work getting to this stage,” Ford said, “but the path forward is pretty clear.”
Pam Silberman, head of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, agreed.
“We know from literature, from looking at other research studies, we know what works,” she told a Chapel Hill reporter. “What we need to do is implement those programs in North Carolina. We know that with motor vehicle crashes, for example, we need to be doing more to implement effective driver’s education programs in school. We need to do more around implementing effective juvenile justice programs to reduce our youth violence rates. We can learn what has worked in other states and begin to implement those same programs in North Carolina.”
No simple magic bullet will solve all the problems, Silberman said. “But unless we work with youth to develop healthy behaviors, it’s going to affect them the rest of their lives.”
Summit sponsors included the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!), Action for Children North Carolina, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, UNC Hospitals, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, the N.C. Pediatric Society, the N.C. School of Community Health Alliance, the Center for Adolescent Health and the Law, the Society of Adolescent Medicine and The Duke Endowment.
Lin B. Hollowell III
Director of Health Care