Talking health with teens

    Study: Doctors often skip important health behavior talks with teens

    National guidelines urge health providers to talk with young people about risky health behaviors, but according to a new survey, pediatricians may be missing opportunities to help prevent teen violence.

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    The survey asked patients ages 12 to 17 to remember their last routine doctors visit and the health topics discussed. Only 15 percent of young people said violence came up in the conversation.

    Peter: The main issue there, I think, is, well, what do you do with the information.

    Dr. Nadja Peter, who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says she regularly chats with patients to take a confidential social history. But for other doctors, that may not be so routine.

    Peter: What if a kid says, ‘Yes,’ they are involved in fighting. ‘Yes,’ they are using weapons or have access to them. I think that a lot of people have a lot of discomfort with what do you say.

    Peter enlists her patients’ help to figure out the next step.

    Peter: So tell me about what’s happening in your neighborhood, you know, tell me what you are afraid of, what’s going on, how did you get involved in this stuff. Then try to get them, actually, to come up with some ideas of how they can get out of it.

    According to the survey, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, exercise and nutrition were discussed most often. Seat belts and helmets came up less often.

    Researchers did not ask young people if they talked with their physicians about mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Those are two topics Peter tries to include in her exams.

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