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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Health Promotion Advocates Help Intervene in Pediatric ERs

Almost 200,000 adolescents visit U.S. emergency departments yearly for conditions related to underage drinking or other risky behaviors but receive no follow-up referrals. A pilot program that puts “Health Promotion Advocates” into the emergency room to conduct brief screenings of patients’ risks, stresses, and needs and to offer referrals is useful in steering adolescents to resources and treatments, says a new study by a team from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), Boston Medical Center, and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

In the study, published in the journal Pediatric Emergency Care, researchers led by Dr. Judith Bernstein and Dr. Edward Bernstein, who hold appointments as professors of community health sciences at BUSPH and emergency medicine at BUSM, and their colleagues report on the use of Health Promotion Advocates (HPAs) to help to steer at-risk adolescents to care and services. From 2009 to 2013, HPAs screened 2,149 pediatric patients ages 14 to 21 and referred 834 for an array of services, such as primary care, mental health, insurance, personal safety, and HIV testing. Of those screened, 785 were found to be at risk for substance use. Six hundred and thirty-six received a brief intervention; 546 were referred to specialized substance abuse treatment.

Dr. Judith Bernstein said the model was effective in identifying risk behaviors and unmet needs and guiding young people to services.

“Pediatric EDs have a ‘window of opportunity’ that might otherwise be missed to screen for high-risk behaviors, negotiate change, and provide supportive community resources that can help set a pattern for healthy adulthood,” she said. “Health Promotion Advocates working as part of the PED team can be a way to extend services beyond the scope of the presenting complaint, during the critical, transformative time of adolescence.”

To read more about the study, go to: