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How Can We Keep College Youth Healthy, Happy and Disease Free?

College couple holding hands

The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is arguably one of the most difficult periods of time in a person’s life. Moving out of their parents’ home means a loss of structure and stability. After leaving home many young adults neglect the healthy habits they once had:

  1. brushing their teeth

  2. exercising daily, and

  3. making healthy food choices.

However, these are not the only health behaviors that young adults can neglect. During this phase, many youth engage in risky sexual and substance abuse behaviors that can expose them to many sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.

For more information on this, I interviewed Nancy Brown, PhD, a psychologist and member of APA’s Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) Program and Education Projects Manager at Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California. She created the Wellness Assessment for Youth to Get Organized (WAY2GO!).

WAY2GO! is an online tool for preteen families, teens, and young adults. The assessment takes about 30 minutes to complete and immediately generates individually tailored reports.

The reports help young people to:

  1. assess their health,

  2. learn why different aspects of their health are important,

  3. set goals,

  4. develop healthier habits, and

  5. monitor their progress.

WAY2GO! then offers web and mobile-based apps that help them to address nutrition, exercise, medication, safe sex, and wellness.

Dr. Brown shared that many young people entering college have misperceptions about the sexual behaviors and substance use of their peers. They often believe that they are the “only one” who hasn’t had sex or isn’t using drugs or alcohol, when in fact many studies have shown that this is not true. Many young adults don’t realize the risk they put themselves at when they have multiple sexual partners and engage in unprotected sex.

Currently, there is no formalized method to transfer healthcare responsibility from parents to young adults. As a result many young adults do not have a primary care provider to talk to about serious risks and may not know how to go about getting good health care information.

WAY2GO! encourages people of all ages to make healthy lifestyle choices, every day, but for young adults, that knowledge just might help them prevent HIV. Visit WAY2GO to take the assessment or to learn more about the program.

We want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments:

How can we encourage today’s youth to develop and maintain healthy habits throughout their lifetime?

Have you encountered this behavior in young people you know?

How did you respond as a psychologist, health professional, or even as a parent or friend?

Please maintain confidentiality.

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