Adolescents’ Right to Participate: Opportunities and Challenges for Health Care Professionals
Jonathan Todres & Angela Diaz
BACKGROUND: Health care professionals and patients are partners in health care delivery, and this partnership is critical in the treatment of adolescents. International children’s rights law establishes that all children have a right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Fulfillment of that right is as critical in health care settings as any other area of children’s lives.
OBJECTIVES: In this article we examine the right to participate under international children’s rights law, its relevance to health care settings, and how health care professionals can foster adolescents’ participation to fulfill children’s rights and improve health care outcomes.
FINDINGS: The Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes a legal mandate—where ratified— that adolescents have the right to express their views in health care settings and that such views must be given due consideration. In many health care settings, adolescents are not adequately consulted or have limited opportunities to express their views. A review of research finds that both processes and outcomes can improve when youth participation is cultivated.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care providers and organizations have numerous opportunities to cultivate adolescent’s participation rights and in doing so improve health care delivery and outcomes. Health care providers and organizations should further develop structures and processes to ensure opportunities for children and adolescents to be heard on matters relevant to their health care and health status. Creating opportunities for adolescents to realize their right to participate means engaging youth at every stage in the process, beginning with the design of such opportunities. It also means addressing all aspects of health care, from the built environment to patient-provider communication to follow-up services, so that the entire process fosters an environment conductive to meaningful participation by adolescents
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