Is California prepared to meet the specialized healthcare needs of the next generation of teens? According to the American Board of Pediatrics, there are only 51 physicians in California who are board-certified in Adolescent Medicine. A team of investigators at Children's Hospital Los Angeles is working to bridge this gap.
The interdisciplinary team led by Sara Sherer, PhD, a psychologist and the director of Behavioral Services in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, along with Claudia Borzutzky, MD, as medical director, has been awarded nearly $2.2 million over a five year period by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau for the Leadership Education in Adolescent Health (LEAH) Program. The funding will be used to strengthen and expand the interdisciplinary training program at CHLA to prepare maternal and child health leaders to care for the next generation of adolescents and young adults.
"This funding will allow us to train physicians, psychologists, nurses, nutritionists and social workers to specifically address the unique needs of adolescents and young adults," said Sherer. "Our objective is to prepare an interdisciplinary group of professionals to assume leadership positions in clinical care, public health and research specific to this unique population."
The need for robust interdisciplinary graduate and post-graduate education in adolescent and young adult health at CHLA arises from data highlighting the unique and unmet health care needs of this population nationally. There are a number of emerging populations of youth that have not been well served by the health care system, including young people between the ages of 16-24 who are in transition from state custody or foster care, LGBTQ youth and system-involved youth.
"While most adolescents and young adults are considered healthy by standard measures, more than half of all serious illnesses and deaths among adults are due to health-related behaviors that begin in adolescence, including tobacco use, inactivity, poor nutrition, drug and alcohol abuse and risky sexual behavior," added Sherer, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at USC.
In addition to existing programs and services that are specifically designed to address key causes of morbidity and mortality among adolescents and young adults, including substance use, mental health, obesity, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and early childbearing, LEAH trainees will have mentored field experiences with these programs and have the opportunity to gain specific knowledge and skills in evidence-based interventions, community participatory research and interdisciplinary practice with these populations.
According to Sherer, many providers lack the knowledge and skills to provide culturally competent care to diverse communities and do not fully recognize the contributions that poverty, trauma and environment may have on health status.
"Traditional training programs frequently overlook or simplify issues of culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, leaving providers without the knowledge and skills to provide the highest quality care," explained Sherer. "Youth of color and LGBTQ youth, for example, are overrepresented in juvenile justice, child welfare and homeless populations and often report poor treatment."
Through the proposed LEAH program, trainees will learn about the unique needs of these emerging populations and about innovative programs in the foster care, social services, education, mental health and drug and alcohol treatment fields that are trying to address these deficiencies.
About Children's Hospital Los Angeles
Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been ranked the top children's hospital in California and sixth in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. CHLA is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children's Hospital is also one of America's premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California since 1932. For more information, visit CHLA.org. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram, and visit our child health blog (CHLA.org/blog) and our research blog (ResearCHLABlog.org).