UMHS Adolescent Health Initiative expands to 40 states

October 4, 2016  //  FOUND IN: UMHS News

From mental health issues to unintended pregnancies, adolescents and teenagers are some of the most vulnerable patients to pass through a health system. Doctors and nurses utilize ample training and resources to optimize patient outcomes.

One team at UMHS is leading the way in the adolescent health field. The Adolescent Health Initiative currently provides technical assistance, training and expertise to various agencies in five states, including Michigan. Soon, AHI’s reach will expand across the nation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health recently awarded AHI a $2.83 million grant. The grant will allow AHI to reach out to state health departments, universities, school districts, health systems and community organizations to improve policies and practices related to adolescent health.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to expand AHI’s scope of work nationally and have an impact on improving adolescent-centered health care,” said AHI Director Lauren Ranalli, MPH.

So how exactly does AHI improve patient health? The initiative works closely with care providers, giving them the tools necessary to succeed. Services range from workshops for doctors to the development of training videos to a detailed and customized quality improvement plan.

One example of AHI’s impact can be found close to home.

“I asked one patient if he had felt down or depressed recently, and he looked at me and said ‘no,’” said Heba Abu-Isa, MD, who works with UMHS’ Northville Pediatrics. According to Ranalli, such an answer was previously seen by many health care providers as sufficient to confirm or reject a diagnosis.

However, following the implementation of a standardized risk assessment tool and a training session led by AHI, Abu-Isa knew to reword the question and ask it again: “I then asked the patient, ‘Have you felt happy recently?’ He looked at me and said, ‘No. Honestly, I haven’t felt happy for the last five years.’

“I was floored,” Abu-Isa said. “Just by simply rewording the question, I was able to uncover lots of problems from some pretty severe depression that I really do not think I would have caught otherwise.”

Now that AHI has received the five-year grant, the initiative will work closely with 84 organizations across the U.S., expanding its reach from five states to 40.

The group will offer a wide range of services, including helping health care providers implement policies that ensure confidential care, such as asking teens questions about their health privately without a parent in the room. AHI will also advise health centers on how to make an environment that’s welcoming to teens and provide expertise to schools, churches and other nonprofits regarding how to properly connect adolescents to youth-friendly health services in the community.

“Connecting adolescents and young adults with comprehensive health services has the potential to positively impact their future,” said Maggie Riley, MD, the medical director for AHI. “For instance, helping prevent an unintended pregnancy truly has a lifetime of implications.”

To evaluate the impact of AHI’s programs and services, AHI will collaborate with the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, under the direction of Rob Stephenson, PhD. AHI’s Teen Advisory Council and the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities’ Youth Advisory Board will collaborate on the project.

For more information on the UMHS Adolescent Health Initiative, visit  the group’s website or contact them at