Reaching Adolescents for Prevention: The Role of Pediatric Emergency Department Health Promotion Advocates

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Abstract

Objectives

Almost 200,000 adolescents visit US emergency departments (EDs) yearly for conditions involving underage drinking but receive no follow-up referral. Other health risk behaviors resulting in sexually transmitted infections, car crashes, and assault-related injury are common among adolescents. A pediatric ED (PED) visit presents an opportunity to discuss and promote prevention. We report here on implementation of a new PED navigator/extender role, the Health Promotion Advocate (HPA).

Methods

Health Promotion Advocates surveyed patients to identify health risks, stresses, and needs. A positive screen triggered a brief conversation containing the following elements: permission to discuss risks/needs; exploration of context (a typical day in your life); brief feedback (information and norms); exploration of benefits and consequences of risk behaviors; assessment of readiness to change; calling up assets, instilling hope; discussing challenges of change; negotiating a menu of options and prescription for change; referrals to primary care, community resources; and treatment services as indicated.

Results

During 2009-2013, HPAs screened 2149 PED patients aged 14 to 21 years and referred 834 for an array of services (eg, primary care, mental health, insurance, personal safety, human immunodeficiency virus testing, general education diploma (GED), employment, housing, and food pantries) to address reported health risks; 785 screened positive for at-risk substance use (53% female, 36% without primary care). Among them, 636 received a brief intervention; 546 were referred to specialized substance abuse treatment. Two case studies are presented to illustrate the engagement and referral process.

Conclusions

Health Promotion Advocates working as PED team members can extend PED services beyond the scope of the presenting complaint.

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