Teens and Health

Teen Health, Teen Mortality Rate, Quality of Life, Troubled Teens, Teen Depression, Emotional Health, Health CareThis guest post is by Messengers in Denim. A copy of GAPS can be found at: http://www.ama-assn.org//resources/doc/ad-hlth/gapsmono.pdf. A summary can be found on my website http://www.messengersindenim.com, and click on “Appendixes”. It is also available as Appendix A of Messengers in Denim; Appendix B lists the questions I ask each teen to assure I am heeding the AMA’s guidelines; request that your kid’s doctor does the same. Feel free to make a copy for you doctor. He/she will appreciate it!

Everybody is talking about health care, but few are mentioning that with all the money spent on health our teenagers are no healthier today than they were decades ago.

Modern medicine has improved the lives of most everybody. Infant mortality has decreased, childhood deaths from infectious diseases are extremely rare, many types of cancer are treatable and some can be prevented or cured, and organ transplants are commonplace. All in all, the quality of life has improved, and life expectancy has increased. Unfortunately, however, the mortality rate for teens and young adults is little changed.

In many ways teens are less healthy than they were ten, twenty or thirty years ago. This decline is health is seen across every social group – rich and poor alike. Twenty per-cent of kids from every part of town smoke cigarettes, approximately 15 – 20 % use marijuana and/or other drugs, 20% start to drink alcohol before age 13, 40% of have had an alcoholic drink in the past month, and 1/3 of all girls will get pregnant before the age of 20. And, 35% of those pregnant will have an abortion.  And it gets worse, many become depressed, attempt suicide, commit murder or are murdered, have developmental disorders, and become disabled or die from accidents. Murder and suicide continue to be the second and third leading causes of teen deaths; number one is fatal accidental injury.  Adolescents are the most medically under served group in our population.

If we are to change this bleak picture of our young people’s health, it has to start at home with the parents and help form their physicians. Teens need a “Medical Home” with their own compassionate doctor who knows and uses the Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services (GAPS).* GAPS was created in 1992, and up-dated many times since, by the American Medical Association as an attempt to improve medical care for adolescents.

Your teen’s physician should have an interest in teenagers and should review the AMA guidelines with every teen as part of their annual physical. While it is imperative that each teen has a personal physician almost half of all them do not. I am sorry to admit that many doctors who see teens have absolutely no interest in them. Like one of my patients told me, “They have their hand on the door knob.”

As a start, teens need to have an annual health evaluation, which includes time alone with their doctor to discuss sensitive issues in confidence. Also, parents must trust that the physician has the same values that they have. Choosing a doctor for your teens is not a simple task! But, having an understanding physician is necessary for your teenager’s well being. Study the GAPS, discuss them with your teen and his/her physician, if the doctor does not know about them or if he “does not have time” to discuss them, then it is probably time to find a doctor with enough interest in teenagers to serve them well.

But, there is good news among teens, 87% ARE NOT smoking, 76% ARE NOT drinking alcohol, 82% ARE NOT binge drinking (5 drinks in a row), 85% ARE NOT using marijuana, and almost 60% have not had sex!

This guest post is by Messengers in Denim. A copy of GAPS can be found at: http://www.ama-assn.org//resources/doc/ad-hlth/gapsmono.pdf. A summary can be found on my website http://www.messengersindenim.com, and click on “Appendixes”. It is also available as Appendix A of Messengers in Denim; Appendix B lists the questions I ask each teen to assure I am heeding the AMA’s guidelines; request that your kid’s doctor does the same. Feel free to make a copy for you doctor. He/she will appreciate it!

 

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