Adolescent medicine

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Template:For Adolescent medicine is a medical subspecialty that focuses on care of patients who are in the adolescent period of development, generally ranging from the last years of elementary school until graduation from high school (some doctors in this subspecialty treat young adults attending college at area clinics, in the subfield of college health). Patients have generally entered puberty, which typically begins between the ages of 9 to 11 for girls, and 11 to 14 for boys.

In developed nations, the period of adolescence is extended both by an earlier start, as onset of puberty is beginning earlier, and a later end, requiring more years of education or training before economic independence from parents.[1]

Issues with a high prevalence during adolescence are frequently addressed by providers. These include:

Scope of care

Providers of care for adolescents generally take a holistic approach to the patient, and attempt to obtain information pertinent to the patient's well-being in a variety of different domains.

  • Home -- how is the adolescent's home life? How are his/her relationships with family members? Where and with whom does the patient live? Is his/her living situation stable?
  • Education (or Employment) -- how is the adolescent's school performance? Is he/she well-behaved, or are there discipline problems at school? If he/she is working, is he/she making a living wage? Are they financially secure?
  • Eating* (incorporates body image) -- does the patient have a balanced diet? Is there adequate calcium intake? Is the adolescent trying to lose weight, and (if so), is it in a healthy manner? How does he/she feel about his/her body? Has there been significant weight gain/loss recently?
  • Activities -- how does the patient spend his/her time? Are they engaging in dangerous or risky behavior? Are they supervised during their free time? With whom do they spend most of their time? Do they have a supportive peer group?
  • Drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) -- does the patient drink caffeinated beverages (including energy drinks)? Does the patient smoke? Does the patient drink alcohol? Has the patient used illegal drugs? If there is any substance use, to what degree, and for how long?
  • Sex -- is the patient sexually active? If so, what form of contraception (if any) is used? How many partners has the patient had? Has the patient ever been pregnant/fathered a child? Do the patient and their partners get routine reproductive health and STD checks and physical examinations? Are there any symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection? Does the patient identify as heterosexual, homosexual, or unsure? Does the patient feel safe discussing sexuality issues with parents or other caregivers?
  • Suicidality (including general mood assessment) -- what is the patient's mood from day to day? Has he/she thought about/attempted suicide? In broader terms, is their mental and emotional state so dysfunctional that the activities of daily living are largely impaired or they present a risk to themselves or others?
  • Safety* -- does the patient regularly wear a bicycle helmet? seatbelt? Does the patient drive while intoxicated or with a driver who is intoxicated? Does the patient wear safety equipment while participating in sports?
  • Some providers favor the addition of Strengths to the list, in an effort to avoid focusing on issues of risk or concern, and reframe the patient interaction in a manner that highlights resilience.

In addition to a detailed history, adolescents should have a comprehensive physical exam (including a developmental and neurological assessment, STI testing, and a reproductive system exam) and mental health status exam on at least a yearly basis, in addition to yearly dental and ocular exams.

Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth

Adolescents who are gay, lesbian or bisexual tend to demonstrate more risky health behaviors and have worse health outcomes compared to heterosexual youth, including:[2]

  • Substance Abuse
  • Suicidality
  • Eating Disorders and Body Image
  • Sexual Behaviors, including Unintended Pregnancy Involvement (Contrary to assumptions, gay, bisexual or lesbian youth are more likely to report involvement in pregnancy compared to their heterosexual peers)[3]
  • Homelessness, which affects health and access to care

Chronic Conditions

The rising dominance of chronic conditions over acute conditions, along with dramatic improvement in life expectancy, has made the management of such chronic conditions in adolescence of greater importance: Chronic conditions and adolescent development are mutually impactful.

Chronic conditions often cause delay in onset of puberty and temporary or permanent impediments to growth; conversely the growth and hormonal changes can destabilize treatment for the chronic condition. An increase in independence can lead to gaps in self-management, for example, in the decreased management of diabetes.[4]

Young peoples' access to health care

In addition, issues of medical ethics, particularly related to confidentiality and the right to consent for medical care, are pertinent to the practice of adolescent medicine.[5]

Training

Adolescent medicine providers are generally drawn from the specialties of pediatrics, internal medicine, med/peds or family medicine. The certifying boards for these different specialties have varying requirements for certification, though all require successful completion of a fellowship (a comprehensive list of which is available through the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine) and a passing score on a certifying exam. The American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Internal Medicine require evidence of scholarly achievement by candidates for subspecialty certification, usually in the form of an original research study.

In the United States, subspecialty medical board certification in adolescent medicine is available through the specialty boards of American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry, the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians, the American Board of Pediatrics, and the American Osteopathic Board of Pediatrics.[6]

Adolescent Health centers in the United States

Many subspecialists practice as part of general specialty clinics or practices, or in high school or college clinics. In addition, many major metropolitan areas have clinics that offer adolescent-specific care. A partial list includes:
Dallas

Kansas City, MO

New York City

Rochester, NY

Los Angeles

San Francisco area

Boston

Philadelphia

Columbus

Seattle

Cincinnati, OH

Adolescent Medicine in Australia

These hospitals offer adolescent-specific care:
Sydney

Melbourne

Professional Organizations

In addition to membership in the organizations for their various specialties, adolescent medicine providers often belong to The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine and/or The North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.

Founded in 1987, the International Association for Adolescent Health (IAAH) is a multidisciplinary, non-government organization with a broad focus on youth health.

Publications

See also

References

  1. Chown P, Kang M, Sanci L, Newnham V and Bennett D (2008) Adolescent Health: GP Resource Kit. Enhancing the skills of General Practitioners in caring for young people from culturally diverse backgrounds, 2nd edition, NSW Centre for the Advancement of Adolescent Health and Transcultural Mental Health Centre. Available at: [http://www.caah.chw.edu.au/resources/#03. Accessed on: October 14, 2008.

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