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Communication Between Parents and Doctors Vital for Teen Health

Update Date: Nov 27, 2013 11:02 AM EST

Communication is vital for raising a healthy teen. New research reveals that improved communication between doctors and parents of adolescents could lead to better health outcomes.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine administered an anonymous, self-reported questionnaire to a sample of 358 parents accompanying their adolescent children on visits to general outpatient pediatric clinics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC to assess the main health issues concerning their adolescents.

 Parents had to recall their conversations with their adolescent's health care provider on a range of preventive health topics including nutrition, mental health, physical activity, sexual activity and substance abuse.

The findings revealed that most parents could recall discussing at least one adolescent preventative heath topic with their adolescent's care provider. The study also found that parents were significantly more likely to recall discussing general prevention topics like physical activity and nutrition than they were to recall discussing more sensitive topics like sexual activity, substance abuse and mental health issues.

"Adolescence is a relatively healthy period of life, and most adolescent morbidity comes from participating in high-risk behaviors. Most preventive health conversations between parents and providers take place during early childhood, but such communication is arguably even more important during the adolescent years, when adolescents' health choices could directly influence health outcomes," Aletha Akers, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a news release.

"Ideally, these results are the first step toward improving communication between pediatric care providers and parents and guardians," Dr. Akers added. "By building on tools we already have in place, we can improve conversations about high-risk health behaviors, including incorporating screening and counseling practices into acute care visits or visits for school physicals, since many adolescents miss their annual well-child check-ups. The use of electronic medical records can remind care providers of essential health topics that need to be discussed with adolescents and their guardians," she added.

The findings are published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling

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