Health Care Pathways for Opportunity Youth: A Framework for Practitioners and Policymakers

At a Glance

To address a slowly recovering economy and a health care system expanding coverage to over 30 million new patients, the health care industry should take advantage of disconnected youth and young adults.

The United States faces twin challenges that converge in the labor market: an economy that is slow to recover from a deep recession and a health care system expanding coverage to over 30 million new patients while seeking higher quality care at lower cost. Yet these challenges come with opportunities for the nation’s 6.5 million youth and young adults who are disconnected or off track from attaining education and careers.

Taking advantage of the opportunities for youth and young adults requires a high degree of preparation, support, and, above all, changes in “business as usual” in health care workplaces and among education providers and community institutions. Health Care Pathways for Opportunity Youth draws on experience and models for enabling underprepared adults to attain professional credentials and family-supporting earnings to offer a framework for designing and assessing parallel efforts to prepare opportunity youth for health care jobs and careers. It also describes adult career pathway initiatives and emerging examples of career pathways serving at-risk youth, off-track youth, and young adults, addressing two questions:

  • Can lessons from adult career pathway initiatives prove relevant to youth and young adults who are off-track or at-risk in their educational and career progress?
  • What approaches are similar, and what adaptations are necessary, given the longer on ramp to education and careers, particularly for those who lack a high school diploma or equivalent credential?

The transformation of health care in a climate of persisting inequality and the marginalization of youth and other populations makes effective pathways into health care not just feasible but essential.

This paper was funded by a grant from the California Endowment.