Reading an article in the Forum, I recently learned the University of Montreal was creating a new program in adolescent medicine. I had never heard of this subspecialty before. My colleague and I wondered whether society was not just on its way to medicalize adolescence, as it did for ageing. This gave us the impetus to explore on our blog what this medical domain was about.
Admittedly, when we think about teenage years, we think about awakening to sexuality which may impact negatively one’s physical and mental health (sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy). We also think about illegal substances, smoking, sexual abuse or exposure to different types of peer violence (bullying, gangs). In North America, suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents, immediately after road accidents.
Being a teenager is not easy! But does it justify developing healthcare specifically tailored for them? Well, yes, it seems so!
Debunking a few myths
While healthcare providers may tend to keep parents at a distance when intervening with teenagers, doctors who specialize in adolescent medicine promote the opposite. The role of parents in their adolescents’ physical and mental health is pivotal. According to Dr. Jean-Yves Frappier, who granted us an interview. "the best way to provide care to a teenager is often to provide care to his or her family."
Many also believe that intervening with young people "who won’t listen" is pointless. Karine Bertrand, psychologist at the Research Center on Addictions at the University of Sherbrooke, disagrees. We should be proactive when dealing with adolescents. Although they claim their autonomy and independence, they can nonetheless benefit from guidance and support, which they would not seek spontaneously by themselves.
As underlined by our contributors in this dossier, rather than knowledge per se, specific interpersonal skills and know-how are the essential assets of adolescent medicine specialists. Knowing how to communicate and interact with teenagers is an art that can be learned and which contributes to maximizing their health outcomes.
Through this dossier, we hope to share with you the enthusiasm of our contributors. They clarify why adolescent medicine is valuable, essential and not enough accessible. Dr. Mary Ott, of Indiana University, explains why and how public health authorities can involve adolescents when devising policies on matters of concern to them. Dr. Vic Larcher, consultant in ethics at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, brings nuances to the notions of adolescents’ decision-making autonomy and right to confidentiality. Dr. Susan Sawyer, from the University of Melbourne, takes stock of the healthcare services currently available for adolescents with chronic illnesses. Finally, Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, points out that many health problems affecting teenagers can be prevented and illustrates her argument with a series of interventions she developed with teenagers living in the Bronx.
Enjoy your visit!
|Author :||Myriam Hivon, Ph.D.