The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently published a consensus study report on The Promise of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity for All Youth, which details the neurobiological as well as the social and economic factors that affect adolescent mental and physical well-being and development. The report defines adolescence as beginning with the onset of puberty and ending in the mid-20s, and it claims that key areas of the brain mature and develop during this time. This process is impacted both by the biological components of development as well as the environmental factors and stressors surrounding it, which supports an epigenetic view on adolescence. After determining the biological and genetic components, this report delves into several policy recommendations regarding programs and policies affecting adolescents to bolster their mental and physical health as well as complement their natural brain development.
The policy recommendations surround four critical areas: education, the health system, the child welfare system, and the justice system. Within education, the report details the need to rectify disparities in resources, teach practical knowledge and emotional adaptability, and foster culturally sensitive learning environments, among others. Recommendations for the health system focus not just on providing adequate access to healthcare, but also on fostering independence among adolescents, improving training of providers, and supporting more data collection and research on adolescent-specific health services. The racial disparities and disconnect of systems related to child welfare and justice systems are also emphasized in this report, with calls for enacting policies that best support growth rather than establishing punitive and antagonistic measures.
This report hopes to highlight the collective responsibility that the U.S. has to build systems that support and promote resiliency and positive adolescent development so that young people can grow successfully.
More information about the report can be found on the NASEM website.
This article was contributed by COSSA’s summer intern, Joanna Hua of Cornell University.