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Making a Difference in Adolescent Health

M. Joycelyn Elders, MD
JAMA. 1993;269(11):1425-1426. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500110093043.
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It has been said that a society is ultimately judged by its attention to its weakest members. While not our weakest, adolescents are perhaps the most vulnerable members of our society, as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Adolescence is a period of profound change. More changes take place in anatomy and physiology, mental and emotional functioning, and social development during adolescence than in any other life stage except infancy. The attitudes and behaviors molded during adolescence often determine the life-style and health habits of adulthood, creating long-term health implications. Improving the health status of adolescents is critical to improving the health status of the population.

How well are we doing as a society in attending to the health needs of adolescents? Consider the leading mortalities and morbidities of today's youth:

  • Injury and violence account for three of four adolescent deaths.1

  • Homicide is the second leading cause of


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