Midtown Raleigh News

Teens need health care too, experts remind

Amy Walsh is an expert on teen health care for more reasons than just her medical degree: She’s also a mom.

So when she takes the floor at Rex Healthcare’s latest Ask the Experts event at Rex Family Practice of Wakefield on Saturday to talk teen health, she can speak from experience.

Both Walsh and her co-presenter at the event, Dr. Robert Gardner, are board-certified family physicians with a special interest in teen health. They will take questions from attendees and discuss hot topics in teen health, from stress to sexuality.

Walsh is passionate about the importance of not letting doctor visits stop when a child reaches high school. Staff writer Chelsea Kellner caught up with her last week to talk teen health.

Responses have been edited for length.

Q: Why is this an important event?

A: A lot of times, teenagers seem to be slower to go in for health care, because they’ve outgrown the pediatrician but they’re not old enough for an internist. It’s important for the community to learn the health issues that we should be talking about with our teenagers. There are also a host of new immunization recommendations for this age group, so we need to be pulling these kids in.

Q: Why are you holding this event now?

A: We do a host of wellness exams over the course of the summer as kids are getting ready for college, sports participation and physicals for returning to school.

Q: Is there one most important thing for parents to know about teen health?

A: It’s all important. One of the most important things is that this population does have their own list of health issues. You can’t say, oh, my child has gotten their shots, they don’t need to go in anymore. I still need to address healthy lifestyle choices, which is a really tough thing for a teenager. They still need to be screened for different illnesses they might be high risk for from family history or lifestyle choices. Most important is that these teens are patients who still need to see a primary care physician on a regular basis.

Q: You sound pretty passionate about this.

A: My own children are teenagers and adolescents. I experience the same things a lot of parents experience – not being able to talk about certain issues. I think it’s important, because once you get teenagers into the doctor’s office, you can bring up a subject the parent is having trouble with, and it’s an easy conversation to follow up on when you go home. It opens the door for better communication in a less threatening way.

Q: With your own children, did you see at a certain age that they didn’t want to go to the doctor anymore?

A: There has certainly been an age where communication becomes harder and kids are less apt to share information. It’s not so much a fear of the doctor as that communication changes when they become adolescents.

Q: What’s the best way to deal with that?

A: I think you’ve got to know your kid. There’s no special secret recipe. The important thing is persistence and to take the opportunity whether you’re sitting in the carpool line or at the dinner table to have a conversation.