Improving Adolescent Health in North Carolina

To help young people in North Carolina have the greatest opportunities for success in life, The Duke Endowment funded a collaborative effort that looked at ways to improve adolescent health and increase awareness of unmet needs.


North Carolina is home to more than 1.4 million adolescents between 10 and 20 years old, representing nearly one-sixth of the state’s total population. Sixty-two percent are white, 27 percent are black and 7.5 percent are Hispanic.

Most of these young people are on track to become healthy, productive adults. But some adolescents face big challenges that can affect their well-being – and all adolescents make decisions about behaviors that can seriously impact their health. Experts say that except for infancy, there is no other time when a person experiences such profound changes in physical, cognitive, emotional and social development.

According to the Portrait of Adolescent Health in North Carolina for students in grades 9-12 in 2007:

  • 21 percent said they had participated in binge drinking (five or more drinks within a couple of hours) in the past 30 days
  • 30 percent said they had been in a physical fight one or more times during the past 12 months
  • 21 percent said they carried a weapon on one or more of the past 30 days
  • 25 percent said they had ridden in a car driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol one or more times in the past 30 days
  • 52 percent said they have had sex
  • 27 percent said they had used tobacco products in the past 30 days
  • 55 percent said they were not physically active for 60 minutes or more per day on five or more of the past seven days
  • 27 percent said they were depressed

“The health and well-being of youth are shaped by the environment created by parents, health professionals, schools, communities and policymakers,” says a report by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. “Adults need to ensure that there are opportunities for adolescents to develop the skills and knowledge needed to be healthy teens, healthy adults and productive members of society in the future.”


In 2007, Trustees of The Duke Endowment approved a $649,746 three-year grant to increase awareness of the unmet health needs of North Carolina’s adolescents and young adults.

The grant funded the North Carolina Metamorphosis Project, which studied ways to improve adolescent health in the state. The project was a collaborative effort of the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Gillings School of Global Public Health, the North Carolina Multidisciplinary Adolescent Research Consortium and Coalition for Health, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, the North Carolina Division of Public Health, and Action for Children North Carolina.

It focused on creating a Portrait of Adolescent Health (December 2009) (pdf), creating a parent survey and forming a Task Force on Adolescent Health.


Area of Work

  • Prevention

Program Area

  • Health Care

Grantmaking Status

This program ran from 2007 to 2010

Areas of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

    To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

  • Out-of-home care for youth

    To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

  • Quality and safety of health care

    Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

  • Access to health care

    Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

  • Prevention

    Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

  • Academic excellence

    Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

  • Educational access and success

    Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

  • Campus and community engagement

    Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

  • Rural church development

    Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

  • Clergy leadership

    Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

  • Congregational outreach

    Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities