Adolescents and Health Concerns

Youth have many options for procuring health care information.  In addition to healthcare professionals, parents and friends, they also have the internet.  We surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 5th through 12th grade youth in the US.  Our goal was to understand where youth obtain health care information.  Over half said they turn to their parents and/or a doctor or other health professional for health care information.  However, 25-33% also gleaned health care information from potentially unreliable sources, such as magazines, television shows, newspapers and the internet.  Of further concern, 10% responded that they did not know where to get health care information.

The survey also asked if there were adolescent health topics that they wouldn’t discuss with their health care provider.  Over one-third of boys and girls said they would be too embarrassed, afraid or uncomfortable talking about physical or sexual abuse, menstruation, body changes and sexuality.

Opportunities for improvement

Adolescent health is too important not to discuss.  We can be better advocates for adolescent health care, asking youth appropriate questions and providing them private opportunities to discuss sensitive topics.  Health care professionals and others can work on establishment of a good rapport, taking time out to listen to teens, assuring and maintaining confidentiality, and helping them access appropriate information when needed.