Pediatrics is all about prevention.
Pediatrics is all about prevention. As pediatric professionals, we see infants and younger children most frequently, but as children grow into adolescence, we begin to see them less, despite visit recommendations. Screenings and regular visits during pre-teenhood and teenhood are crucial in guiding healthy habits and forming a positive lifestyle. Adolescent healthcare has become a key strategic priority for WIAAP due to the dramatic drop off in routine exams for adolescents coupled with the importance of preventative medicine at this stage in development. WIAAP will seek out and provide relevant and beneficial resources to our members regarding obstacles in adolescent health care, which will be made available via our News & Articles and Resources sections.
According to a recent report by Reuters Health, teens are more likely to seek health care and openly talk to doctors when they are assured of privacy, particularly for issues related to sexual behaviors, substance use, and mental health. Having one-on-one time with pediatricians is not only important for making healthy choices, but it helps teens grow to be more independent closer to adulthood, preparing them to make better healthcare choices after leaving pediatric care.
As pediatric professionals, it is crucial we create an open and trustworthy environment to have key milestone talks regarding sexual health, substance abuse, and risky behavior. This type of environment allows for opportunities in autonomy with health decision making, helping to form independent healthy habits. According to Dr. Melissa McKee of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York “We need to start creating opportunities for kids to have autonomy with regard to health issues. It’s not all or nothing at a certain age. They don’t suddenly become fully in charge of themselves.”
While some adolescents are required to receive a basic check-up in the form of a sports physical to participate on school-affiliated athletic teams, it is crucial that all adolescents receive routine check-ups. Some adolescents may not participate in sports and their parents or guardians might require additional encouragement to schedule routine visits. These confidential adolescent visits are the best time to ensure young patients are up-to-date on immunizations and boosters, including key adolescent vaccines like HPV.
Pediatricians should not only use this time to check in on the general physical development of their patients but also their mental health by providing screenings for concerns such as depression. Sexual and reproductive health are also growing areas of interest for teens, many of whom may have questions regarding sexual behavior or LGBTQ issues. Other key topics for adolescent visits include discussions on high-risk behaviors and how to navigate the complexities of social media pressures. Because teens trust their physicians, they may feel more comfortable discussing these topics with their pediatricians over their guardians or teachers.
Prevent oversights in teen health by beginning conversations with parents and their children early in their care plan. It is crucial to emphasize the importance of routine check-ups early and often, to keep patients on track and create the foundation for positive relationships with future doctors. Regular visits allow pediatricians to note developmental benchmarks which can help recognize changes in health and show early warning signs for many diseases. Evaluation of physical and emotional well-being is vital during these formative years, and WIAAP will work to provide resources to our members to them keep adolescents and parents engages in care.