Citation: Robards F, Kang M, Usherwood T, Sanci L, How marginalized young people access, engage with and navigate healthcare systems in the digital age: systematic review, Journal of Adolescent Health, 2018;62:365-81.



Purpose: This systematic review examines how marginalized young people access and engage with health services and navigate health-care systems in high-income countries.

Methods: Medline, CINAHL, PsychInfo, The University of Sydney Library database, and Google Scholar were searched to identify qualitative and quantitative original research, published from 2006 to 2017, that focused on selected definitions of marginalized young people (12 to 24 years), their parents/carers, and/or health professionals working with these populations. A thematic synthesis was undertaken identifying themes across and between groups on barriers and/or facilitators to access, engagement, and/or navigation of health-care systems.

Results: Of 1,796 articles identified, 68 studies in the final selection focused on marginalized young people who were homeless (n = 20), living in rural areas (n = 14), of refugee background (n = 11), gender and/or sexuality diverse (n = 11), indigenous (n = 4), low income (n = 4), young offenders (n = 2), or living with a disability (n = 2). Studies were from the United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Portugal, including 44 qualitative, 16 quantitative, and 8 mixed-method study types. Sample sizes ranged from 3 to 1,388. Eight themes were identified relating to ability to recognize and understand health issues; service knowledge and attitudes toward help seeking; structural barriers; professionals' knowledge, skills, attitudes; service environments and structures; ability to navigate the health system; youth participation; and technology opportunities.

Conclusions: Marginalized young people experience barriers in addition to those common to all young people. Future studies should consider the role of technology in access, engagement, and health system navigation, and the impact of intersectionality between marginalized groups.

About The Authors


Dr Fiona Robards has been involved in research, policy, management and clinical work for over 25 yea...

  Associate Professor  

Melissa Kang is an Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of Technology Sydney, and ...


Lena Sanci is Head, Department of General Practice, Director of Teaching and Learning, Chair of the ...