Girls Health Screen©

Leslie Acoca developed and wrote The Girls Health Screen© (GHS) and validated it with support from her partners. The GHS© was born in response to research revealing that girls have different and more serious health (including reproductive health) and mental health needs than their male counterparts, and that girls are less likely to receive adequate assessment and treatment. Prior to the GHS, there were no standardized medical screening and assessment tools for girls in detention.

The GHS is the first evidence-based and gender-responsive medical screen developed exclusively for girls 11-17 years old who enter detention and other juvenile justice residential programs. The GHS is designed to improve the health of girls in the juvenile justice system by assisting juvenile correctional facilities to identify, prioritize, and address the physical and mental health needs of girls entering their care. The GHS accomplishes this earlier and more effectively than would occur using previous instruments not designed and validated for this population of high-risk girls.

What is the GHS?

The GHS is a triage model instrument, including 117 questions, covering multiple areas of girls’ lives, written at a 4th grade reading level, calling for simple “yes” or “no” answers. Girls manually fill out the self-report questionnaire upon intake, either with a pen and pencil or via an ipad device. (The electronic application version has an audio option for girls unable to read.) Both versions are in both, English and Spanish, and will soon be translated into other languages. The GHS is not only, proven to be effective, it is also highly efficient, taking approximately 11-13 minutes to complete.

What distinguishes the GHS from other screening tools?

The GHS, is the only medical intake screen designed just for girls and reaches girls where they are, with age and gender-responsive questions presented without judgment. The GHS is also comprehensive in its integration of physical and mental health questions, leading to greater coordination of services within facilities and later, outside in the community.

What about a Boy’s Health Screen?

We have designed and are ready to pilot the Boys Health Screen, which will be a gender-responsive, physical and mental health screen designed exclusively for boys 11-17 entering the juvenile justice system.

Where is the GHS currently being used?

The Electronic Girls Health Screen is now part of the standard medical intake for all girls entering the Los Angeles county juvenile justice system, which serves approximately 1600 girls per year. The GHJI has also contracted with San Joaquin County, CA to begin implementation and is currently working with five additional California counties and several other states and tribal nations in order to reach as many vulnerable girls as possible.

How was the GHS developed?

The “National Girls Health Screen Project” was initially developed through a collaboration that included the GHJI, the Juvenile Law Center and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Leslie Acoca, Founder of GHJI, led the project’s research and conducted interviews with administrators and medical staff in detention centers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, San Diego and Santa Cruz Counties in California. During each phase of its initial development (2002-2009), the GHS was reviewed by leading pediatricians and by girls themselves who were being held in detention. The GHS was subsequently piloted in an Albuquerque, New Mexico detention center in 2011, where it was further refined. In collaboration with the Los Angeles County Departments of Health Services, Mental Health and Probation, the GHS was implemented at Probation Camp Scudder with 160 girls during 2012-2013.