December 12, 2013

The Case for Improving Adolescent Health

Adolescent Health ReportA new report issued by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and Pfizer Inc. brings attention to the fact that adolescents are often overlooked in the US healthcare system, which may lead to short- and long-term health consequences and contribute to the economic burden on the healthcare system. The report, titled The Case for Improving Adolescent Health: Helping prepare adolescents for a healthy future, suggests that an annual preventive care visit or checkup during the teen years provides an important moment and venue for proactive health guidance and intervention.

The report examines the state of adolescent health in the US, demonstrates the need for increased attention to adolescent preventive health, and emphasizes the role(s) that parents, teens, providers, and adults who influence teens (coaches, youth leaders, school professionals) can play to help make improvements. From the gaps in adolescent-focused programs to the preventive health barriers that exist, The Case for Improving Adolescent Health addresses how behaviors and actions may affect teens’ health.

According to Susan J. Rehm, MD, NFID medical director, “It’s important that teens understand how their behaviors impact health into adulthood, and that we enable adolescents, their parents, and their healthcare professionals to focus on the value of addressing disease prevention at an early age.”

In addition to serving as a checkpoint for modifiable health risk behaviors, annual checkups can help ensure that teens are getting recommended health screenings and are immunized according to recommendations. They can also provide an opportunity for confidential health discussions.  Modifiable behaviors – such as lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, and tobacco use – are responsible for much of the illness and chronic diseases seen in adolescents. Further, not all adolescents are getting vaccinated as recommended, leaving them potentially vulnerable to meningitis, whooping cough, influenza, and infection with HPV.

The Case for Improving Adolescent Health calls on all who influence adolescents to work together as a community of professionals to encourage adolescents and their parents to prioritize annual checkups and preventive health, including recommended vaccinations, and emphasizes the need for adolescents to take a greater role in managing their own health.

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