Adolescent Health in Texas

DSHS takes a universal look at adolescent health and well-being. Instead of tackling risky behaviors alone, Adolescent Health focuses on:

  • the overlap between risky behaviors,
  • the common causes,
  • the strengths that a youth has,
  • the adults who support youth, and,
  • successful activities.  

Partners include:

  • State agencies
  • families
  • schools
  • churches
  • communities
  • youth agencies  

Youth work should center on skills youth need to cope with stress and reduce the urge to take risks. We refer to these skills as protective factors.  Work should focus on strengths. The Positive Youth Development (PYD)model is key to health strategies for youth. PYD projects:

  • Develop relationships with caring adults,
  • Supportive interactions with parents,
  • Promote positive connections to school, and,
  • Have opportunities to experiment in healthy ways.  

Research from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that adolescents understand risk. The risk of any given action just fails to stop them because of the benefits they perceive.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month    


Dating violence affects the couple and their friends. Whether as a parent, educator, friend or unacquainted bystander, you can get involved.  

Warning signs of dating violence:  

  • Physical signs of injury.
  • Truancy or dropping out of school.
  • Failing grades.
  • Indecision or checking with partner before decisions are made.
  • Changes in mood or personality.
  • Use of drugs/alcohol.
  • Pregnancy.  

Parents and professionals - talk to teens about teen dating violence and personal respect. Here are some things you can do:

Teens – here are some things you can do:

Don’t mind your own business.

You can stop the violence by butting in. Call out the violent partner, ask to borrow notes for class, or ask a question about anything.

Don’t want to get in the action?

Stand away, but let the couple see that you are watching them. Get out your cell phone and call for help.

Do put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

If you see any violence and don’t know what to do, try to imagine how you would want someone to help you.

Do treat them like a friend.

You can give the same care and support to someone you don’t know as you would to a friend. Be someone’s friend and stop the violence.

Don’t neglect your personal safety.

Your safety is always the highest priority and you won’t be able to give the best support if you get injured. Alert an adult or call the police immediately. If you do intervene and the violence continues, step away and get help.

Additional resources:

View the DSHS’ Grand Rounds presentation on Intimate Partner Violence. Or visit Futures Without Violence for useful tips and checklists for adults involved with youth.

MCH works within communities to reduce potential risks and promote protective factors. One focus we are looking at is reducing injuries. MCH promotes PYD to help youth get the protective factors they need. This helps adolescents stay injury-free and become healthy and productive adults. MCH works with state agencies and stakeholders on:

  • motor vehicle safety,
  • suicide prevention,
  • violence reduction,
  • HIV/STD prevention,
  • Obesity-related issues, and,
  • substance abuse prevention.

While adolescents are generally healthy. Substance abuse and other risky behaviors can be common problems though. These health issues can have long-term effects.  

MCH believes that youth and family input is vital to program success in the community. MCH supports state-level projects to promote youth leadership and youth voice.  

The Texas Healthy Adolescent Initiative (THAI) is an example of this. THAI increases youth protective factors. THAI helps youth establish a strong base for adult life. It supports positive life choices. THAI supports Youth-Adult Partnerships. Communities can also use PYD and youth involvement to address community-identified risk factors.  

The Title V Needs Assessment showed the need to improve adolescent well visits too. We work with clinics to:

  • improve the adolescent-friendliness of the clinic,
  • increase the number of youth getting services, and,
  • make the most of health visits to look for potential health issues.

MCH believes that youth sexual violence is a public health problem. According a Center for Disease Control and Prevention Survey, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men suffered rape in their lifetime. One in 2 women and 1 in 5 men were victims of sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lives. A 2015 study conducted by UT (found here) had similar results in Texas.  

We are working to engage youth and unite communities around sexual assault. The main purpose is to prevent sexual violence by using prevention strategies. Examples of how local organizations are doing this include:

  • education for youth,
  • training for parents and other caring adults,
  • training for professionals connected to youth,
  • programs for students, and,
  • training campus personnel.

Education and training can reduce sexual assault on school campuses. Prevention uses activities to address the goals identified in Preventing Sexual Violence in Texas, A Primary Prevention Approach, 2010-2018. In 2016, Texas updated the State Plan. The amendment can be found here.

Department of State Health Services
State Adolescent Health Coordinator
Maternal and Child Health
PO Box 149347, MC 1922
Austin, TX 78714-9347

Telephone 512-776-7373
Fax 512-776-7658 

Last updated February 6, 2018