Giving adolescent patients a voice in addressing their own health care needs

What are adolescents thinking?

Historically, medical professionals have seldom asked them directly about basic matters of health. A University of New Mexico researcher wondered if an anonymous study would better pinpoint adolescent concerns.

“Adolescents’ own reports on their health care experiences are rarely used in efforts to measure adolescent health care quality," said Mary M. Ramos, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics. "But, what concerns them is important in providing preventative health care counseling.”

Between 2011 and 2013 Ramos administered an anonymous electronic survey to 87 youths who attended UNM clinics. Questions included demographics, health risk behaviors and discussions with providers on recommended adolescent anticipatory guidance topics.

Results showed that not only do adolescents have concerns about their health care experiences, they are willing to share them when asked in protective settings. 

More than half those surveys reported at least one unmet need for preventive counseling within the past year and 40 percent indicated an unmet need for emotional well-being counseling. Sexually experienced adolescents were more likely than those without sexual experience to report an unmet need for preventive counseling on an emotional well-being topic, according to the report.

The results showed that not only are collecting youth reports important, but it is feasible, in a busy clinic, to collect and use that information, Ramos said.

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