Navigating Your Health Resources:  The Five W’s of Key Health Services

By Audrey Gabriel, Youth Advisory Council member on March 12, 2020

Audrey is a first-generation student and activist for immigrants and people of color. She champions health care as a human right and works to bridge the health inequity gap towards social justice and well-being of all youth. 

Being a young adult presents many different health issues that people younger and older than us may not experience as often. Say that you sprained your ankle during practice for your sport, or that you had sex with a new partner and forgot to use a condom. These two very different scenarios both need attention from a health care professional, but the resource you want to access may differ. Perhaps you feel more comfortable talking to your parents about one situation than the other. Whatever the situation may be, you deserve the right to comprehensive care in an environment that you feel comfortable and respected in. Should you not wish to tell your parents about something, you should still be able to get the medical attention you need!


However, like many young adults, you may find navigating the healthcare system to be tricky. If you want medical autonomy in your decisions of who to see and when to see them, one of the biggest difficulties is knowing what resource is the most appropriate for your situation.  

Here is an overview to the different resources that you likely have available in your area and the different purposes they serve. While specific services may differ from location to location, this chart can serve as a guideline of the five W’s of key health services in order to make your transition to independence in medical situations smoother.

With so many options, sometimes the reason why young people have difficulty accessing the proper services is simply that they do not know where to go. What makes SBHCs such a valuable resource is that they take so many of the services provided by these different, separate locations and offer them in a central location that provides a confidential and reliable setting. Additionally, SBHCs are one of the most cost-effective resources available to students—allowing students to receive care without shouldering the out-of-pocket costs that other locations might charge.  

What makes SBHCs even better? Say you don’t have one immediately available in your school. With the Children’s Health and Education Mapping Tool, you are able to search your area for nearby SBHCs that may serve your school and see all the services they offer.


It all seems easier said than done. As a student myself, I have always found it challenging to make the time to schedule a visit with my doctor if I felt that something was wrong either physically or mentally. With the pressure of maintaining academics and extracurricular, I often put aside my own health in favor of going to school and, as a result, my mental health suffered alongside my grades. I felt like a burden to my parents, not wanting to ask them to schedule appointments or accompany me to visits. Furthermore, I had no time for myself, let alone the flexibility to work around the schedule of my doctor. Using my school’s health center, I was able to take independence in my own health and, without even missing a class, I was able to schedule same-day appointments and get the care I needed. Upon receiving counseling services and being able to schedule visits within my SBHC, my performance in school and my own health improved drastically over the course of the school year. 

Young people shouldn’t have to compromise on their own health because the system is confusing to navigate. I hope that moving forward this helps to simplify the different options you have in figuring out which service is best for you and your needs, and that SBHCs and the mapping tool can serve you now and in the future.