Adolescent health

March 2011


Improving health outcomes in young people

A holistic, team based approach

Volume 40, No.3, March 2011 Pages 153-156

Susie Radford

Mieke van Driel

Kate Swanton


Young people aged 12–25 years are poorly serviced by current models of healthcare; they are under represented in Medicare data and are poor seekers of healthcare. However, the majority of mental health problems commence during this age span, significant sexual health issues arise, and there is poor compliance with treatment for chronic disease.


This article describes a holistic, multisector primary healthcare delivery model which may provide a way forward to improve both access and outcomes for young people.


The ‘headspace Gold Coast’ model incorporates the relationship the young person has with both the organisation and the individuals within it; a focus on social and vocational rehabilitation; and a team based approach. The model provided at headspace serves an unmet need for young people in urban settings. However, more and ongoing support is crucial, including options for integration into existing primary care.

Young people experiencing health issues are often reluctant to seek help. Mental disorders account for about half the burden of disease in young Australians aged 12–24 years:1 12% of males and 18% of females in this age group score levels of distress indicative of anxiety or depression;1,2 half of all mental disorders start by age 14 years and three-quarters by age 24 years;3 and one in every 5 adolescents is likely to experience a depressive episode by the age of 18 years.4 In 2004, 272 young people aged 12–24 years committed suicide (8 per 100 000), and accounted for 14% of all suicide deaths in Australia.1 Despite these statistics, few (1.3% males and 3.0% females) general practice consultations with young people aged 12–18 years involve management of depression.5 Barriers identified by general practitioners to providing adolescent health services include inadequate time, flexibility, skills or confidence, and poor linkages with other relevant services.6

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