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Sex, Drugs and Tonsils?

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on January 29, 2008

examA national poll finds that when parents bring their children in for routine check-ups many are hoping the doctors and nurse practitioners caring for them will do more than just check blood pressure, listen to their heart and provide any necessary vaccinations.

Parents with adolescent-age children also want health care providers to talk with their kids about issues related to sexuality, diet, drug abuse and tobacco use, according to a report released by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

The National Poll on Children’s Health – which asked parents of 11- to 17-year-old kids to rate 18 health-related topics for health care providers to address during an adolescent’s routine check-up – found that diet/nutrition, exercise/sports and the physical changes of puberty were the overall top three issues parents want discussed, followed by drugs, tobacco, sexually transmitted diseases and depression/suicide.

Top 10 topics parents consider very important for doctors to discuss with adolescents, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health:

    1. Diet/nutrition
    2. Exercise/sports
    3. Physical changes of puberty
    4. Drug use
    5. Tobacco use
    6. Sexually transmitted diseases
    7. Depression/suicide
    8. Obesity
    9. Drinking
    10. Eating disorders

The adolescent health issues that didn’t make the top 10 list: bullying, pregnancy prevention, relationships with family/friends, safety, school performance, sexual abstinence, violence and religion/faith. The poll also revealed that how parents ranked health topics varied based on their children’s race, ethnicity, gender and age.

“With more than 35 million adolescents living in the United States, understanding which health topics parents value most during routine check-ups is an important component of providing the best care possible to children,” says lead researcher Amanda F. Dempsey, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, a member of the CHEAR Unit team in the Division of General Pediatrics at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

While physicians and nurse practitioners have some guidelines they can follow for appropriate topics to discuss with adolescents parents are rarely asked what they think should be addressed during these routine check-ups, Dempsey notes.

Using data from a national online survey conducted in July and August in collaboration with Knowledge Networks Inc., the National Poll on Children’s Health sought to find out which topics parents feel are the most important for health care providers to cover during check-ups, and if those topics varied by a child’s race/ethnicity, gender and age.

The survey was administered to a random sample of 2,060 adults, ages 18 and older, who are a part of Knowledge Network’s online KnowledgePanelSM. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect U.S. population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. About two-thirds of the sample were parents.

The poll revealed that parents’ ranking of health topics varied based on their children’s race and ethnicity. While diet and nutrition ranked No. 1 for whites, blacks and Hispanics, the groups were not in agreement on the other top five health topics doctors should discuss with adolescents during routine check ups. Most notably, 77 percent of Hispanics felt drug use was the second most important topic doctors should address, while whites and blacks ranked exercise/sports as their No. 2 choice.

Hispanic parents also were more likely to rank drug use, drinking, STDs and pregnancy prevention as very important to discuss compared to white and black parents. Among black parents, sexual abstinence was more highly rated topic of discussion compared to white and Hispanic parents. In addition, black parents ranked obesity (66 percent) as their No. 3 topic for discussion.

How parents ranked each health topic also varied based on their child’s gender. Parents of adolescent boys more frequently rated drinking and tobacco use as important topics for discussion than parents with adolescent girls. In contrast, parents of adolescent girls were more likely to cite sexual abstinence and eating disorders as an important topic for doctors to address with their children.

The National Poll on Children’s Health also found that parents of older children (ages 15 to 17) more frequently viewed drinking, tobacco use, STDs and pregnancy prevention as being important for discussion during check-ups than parents with younger adolescents.

“There is enough variation in parents’ opinions based on their child’s age, race and gender that, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, it makes the most sense to encourage parents to tell their child’s doctor what topics they want to have addressed during visits,” says Dempsey. She notes that the poll results should offer a great deal of reassurance to parents of adolescents; there are tens of millions of other parents in the country that also want their children’s health care providers to discuss many topics – including sensitive topics like depression and puberty – with their adolescent children.

Report highlights

    • Parents view diet/nutrition, and exercise/sports, as the top two issues they want the doctor to address during routine check-ups with their adolescent child.
    • Hispanic parents list drug abuse as the second most important topic of discussion.
    • Black parents list obesity as the third most important topic of discussion.
    • Drinking and tobacco use appear to be more important to parents of adolescent boys than parents of adolescent girls.

Source: University of Michigan

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2008). Sex, Drugs and Tonsils?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/01/29/sex-drugs-and-tonsils/1849.html