Visiting a Healthcare Professional in Your Teens

How to help your teen find the right doctor and take charge of her own healthcare as she becomes an adult.
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The Neglected Age Group

Your teenager's body and mind are going through major developmental and emotional changes. At the same time, your teen is faced with adult decisions about experimenting with smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex, and other lifestyle factors that can impair his or her development. These tumultuous years require expert guidance, and the right doctor can be your teen's biggest ally.

But finding the right doctor for your growing son or daughter can be a challenge because teen health issues are often overlooked in the healthcare system. "Teenagers are in a between age group," says Garry Sigman, director of adolescent and young adult medicine at Evanston Northwestern Health Care. "Hospitals and the healthcare system are not thinking about them. They think about children, and they think about adults. But they don't think about what's in between."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a pediatrician is responsible for patients from birth to age 21. While teenagers technically fall into this group, their needs are not always met by pediatricians, says Sigman. "Some doctors are uncomfortable with sexuality and other issues. They went into the profession to deal with infants and toddlers," he says. On the other hand, a general practitioner or an internist may not focus on teens. Sigman says they tend to concentrate their practices on adult patients.

You and your teenage son or daughter will need to work together to find a doctor -- whether a pediatrician, internist, or general practitioner -- who can effectively address the physical, mental, developmental, and sexuality issues that your teen is facing.

Continued on page 2:  The Right Doctor


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