, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 335-345
Date: 17 Feb 2007

What Gets Measured Gets Done: Assessing Data Availability for Adolescent Populations

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Objectives: To identify specific adolescent sub-populations; to evaluate the health data available regarding these populations related to 21 key national adolescent health objectives from Healthy People 2010; and to make recommendations for improving data capacity to further efforts to reduce health disparities among adolescents.

Methods: Adolescent populations were identified through a consensus process. Academic and government literature was extensively reviewed using internet search techniques to identify available national data for each of these populations on each key national health objective.

Results: 18 adolescent subpopulations were identified. These populations fit into four overlapping categories defined by demography, legal status, chronic health condition, or other special characteristics. Overall, national, population-based data regarding these sub-populations were located for 36% of the 21 health objectives. Within the sub-populations, most data was available for ethnic/racial groups, with 57–81% of each of the objectives having data. Data regarding rural/urban groups were found for about one-half of the 21 objectives, and data were located on all other groups for one-fourth or fewer of the objectives. Within the objectives, substance abuse objectives were the most widely measured, with data available for 56–78% of the various populations. For some objectives, such as drug-or alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths depression among the developmentally disabled, no national data were found.

Conclusions: There are still too little data available regarding the specific health status or health objectives for different adolescent populations. A national adolescent data-priority agenda is needed to develop strategies to improve health data regarding adolescent sub-populations. Federal and state health monitoring agencies could create national health profiles of different populations, include more population markers in health studies, and develop tools for population-specific health assessment, particularly for those within the government’s care, including incarcerated and foster care youth.