More than 70 percent of adolescent deaths, between the ages of 10 and 19, are preventable Dr. Sheryl Ryan told the Legislative Program Review and Investigation Committee on Tuesday.
“We don’t call them accidents anymore because that means there was nothing we could do to prevent them,” Ryan said.
Stemming from a desire to establish a better adolescent health care system the forum was the first step in a study being conducted by the committee focusing on assessing state services available to meet adolescent’s health care needs. The committee expects to complete the study before the end of 2011.
Using a results-based accountability approach the state will look into projects such as sexually transmitted disease prevention, parental involvement, nutrition counseling, violence reduction, and injury prevention.
Preventative care often helps the most in terms of mental health services and screening teens for the possibility of being at risk.
“I feel strongly that we need to get behind this early,” said Dr. Aric Schichor.
Teens who have more structure and participate in leisure activities such as sports are less troubled than those who experience neither, said Schichor.
Preventative measures such as making sure teens stay active not only help with their mental state, but also translate into better grades, said Cheryl Resha, Department of Education manager.
“Only 40 percent of 10th graders passed all four parts of the physical exam,” said Resha.
The Department of Education’s prominent concern is cutting down on factors that contribute to loss of education time. Preventative measures such as routine checkups will help avoid unnecessary trips to the school nurse or the emergency room, said Resha.
Only 50 percent of teens went for a routine checkup in 2008, however different health care for adolescents should also include gender specific designs, said Mary Alice Lee of CT Voices for Children.
“There is a decline in routine checkups in males starting around age 14, where females show steady numbers or a slow incline,” said Lee.
Regardless of whether gender is a crucial factor, one common theme was that adolescents need a new type of health care to help overcome the current issues they are facing.
“We need to provide different health care because they are neither big children or little adults,” said Ryan.
During adolescence individuals go through more growth and developmental change than at any other time in their life, besides the period from birth until the age of two, said Ryan.
This severe change, Ryan said, causes teens to separate from parents causing more problems further down the road.
“The goal of my clinic is to not only work with teens but also work with parents,” said Schichor.
Schichor said young adults who discuss personal problems and reach out to those outside of their family are more likely to be depressed or have mental issues, getting parents on board helps insure consistent support.
“Teens are more willing to seek a cure and share when they are assured of confidentiality,” said Ryan.