Despite numerous calls to improve training in adolescent health, there is little known about the prevalence or effectiveness of specialized training in adolescent health.
A two-stage random sampling cluster design was used to collect nationally representative data from 8,500 students from 91 high schools. Student data were linked to data from a survey of school health clinicians from participating schools on their level of training in youth health. Multilevel models accounting for demographic characteristics of students were used to estimate the association between nurses and physicians training in youth health and health outcomes among students.
Almost all nurses and physicians reported some training in youth health, either having attended lectures or study days in youth health (n = 60, 80%) or completed postgraduate papers in youth health (n = 13, 17.3%). Students in schools where the nurses and physicians had received postgraduate training in youth health were less likely than students from schools with clinicians having attended lectures or study days in youth health to report emotional and behavior difficulties (11.8 vs. 12.7, p =.002) and binge drinking (19.6% vs. 24.9%, p =.03). There were no significant associations between depressive symptoms, suicide risk, cigarette, marijuana, contraception use, or motor vehicle risk behaviors among students and level of training among clinicians in their schools' health service.
Postgraduate training in youth health among nurses and physicians in school health services is associated with fewer students reporting mental health difficulties and binge alcohol use. These findings support specialized training in youth health for clinicians working predominantly with young people.