Rural Adolescent Health: The Importance of Prevention Services in the Rural Community

Alexa C. Curtis, University of San Francisco
Catherine M. Waters
Claire Brindis


Context: Adolescence is a pivotal developmental period for the establishment of positive health and health practices. However, developmentally propelled risk behaviors coinciding with barriers to health services may increase the propensity for untoward health outcomes in adolescence. In addition, the sociocultural context of the rural environment can present challenges to the health of adolescents. Limited data on rural adolescent health, particularly among population subgroups, hinder the ability to adequately advocate for adolescent health prevention services.

Methods: A secondary analysis of the 2005 California Health Interview Survey Adolescent questionnaire was conducted. Selected survey items corresponding to the Healthy Youth 2010 objectives were analyzed for 663 adolescents aged 12-17 residing in rural regions of California. Adolescent subgroup analysis included race/ethnicity, age, and poverty level

Findings: Adolescent health issues of particular concern in this study include sexual health, substance use, mental health, and risk factors for obesity. Predictably, risk behaviors increase with the age of the adolescent. Minority and poor youth demonstrate the greatest vulnerability to untoward health outcomes.

Conclusion: Significant risk behaviors and health concerns exist among the rural adolescent population, particularly among poor and minority youth, arguing for the creation and preservation of prevention services for youth in the rural community. Future research using alternative sampling methodologies may be necessary to adequately represent the higher-risk adolescent in the rural community. More data are needed on vulnerable adolescent populations in the rural community in order to adequately advocate for prevention services.