Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Adolescent friendly health services

Portrait of a young woman

Adolescents face many barriers in obtaining the health services and commodities they need. Some of these also affect children and adults; others are specific to adolescents.

Initiatives are under way in a growing number of countries to overcome these barriers and to make it easier for adolescents to obtain the health services they need. Most of these initiatives are small in scale and of limited duration. However, there are a steadily growing number of initiatives which have moved beyond the 'pilot project' or 'demonstration project' stage to scale up their operations to reach out to adolescents across an entire district, province or country.

WHO's focus is on making existing health facilities - which are intended to provide health services to all segments of the population - more 'friendly' to adolescents, rather than on setting up new service-delivery points exclusively intended for adolescents. Dedicated service-delivery points that cater specifically to adolescents as well as dedicated outreach to specific groups of adolescents can play a role in reaching marginalized and stigmatized groups of adolescents. For example injecting drug users or young commercial sex workers may be reluctant to use a service-delivery point that is open to all community members.

MCA supports health services to be provided in a friendly way, so that adolescents are willing to obtain the health services they need. WHO's generic 'quality of care' framework guides the work on health service provision to adolescents. It provides a useful working definition of adolescent friendly health services. To be considered adolescent-friendly, health services should have the following characteristics:

Accessible

Adolescents are able to obtain the services that are provided.

Acceptable

Health services are provided in ways that meet the expectations of adolescent clients (so that they want to obtain them).

Equitable

All adolescents, not just certain groups, are able to obtain the health services they need.

Appropriate

The health services that adolescents need are provided.

Effective

The right health services are provided in the right way and make a positive contribution to the health of adolescents.

To scale up the provision of good quality services in countries, WHO promotes a systematic approach based on standards driven quality improvement.

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