Assessing Barriers to Effective Coverage of Health Services for Adolescents in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Scoping Review

Elizabeth K. Stierman, Anna Kalbarczyk, Htet Nay Lin Oo, Theadora Swift Koller, David H. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Understanding barriers to health services, as experienced by adolescents, is important to expand effective and equitable coverage; however, there is limited discussion on methods for conducting barrier assessments and translating findings into action. Methods: We conducted a scoping review of literature published between 2005 and 2019 on barriers to health services for adolescents in low- and middle-income countries. The review was guided by a framework that conceptualized barriers across multiple dimensions of access (availability, geographic accessibility, affordability, and acceptability), utilization, and effective coverage. Results: We identified 339 studies that assessed barriers related to at least one dimension of the operational framework. Acceptability (93%) and availability (88%) of health services were the most frequently studied access dimensions; affordability (45%) and geographic access (32%) were studied less frequently. Less than half (40%) of the studies evaluated utilization, and none of the 339 studies assessed effective coverage. Attention to equity stratifiers (e.g., income, disability) was limited. Topics studied reflected only a subset of the major causes of adolescent death and disability. Conclusions: Holistic, equity-oriented approaches are needed to better understand barriers across multiple dimensions that together determine whether health services are accessible, used, and effectively meet the needs of different adolescent groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-548
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Adolescent health services
  • Effective coverage
  • Health equity
  • Health services accessibility
  • Low- and middle-income countries
  • Services utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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