Do you know that according to WHO, teens from ages 13 – 18 visit the doctor less than any other age group. Usually, they do not visit the doctor until they are sick. Teenagers health care is important because they go through a lot of physical and emotional changes, especially at puberty. They tend to have a poor diet and some of them engage in risky behaviours (e.g smoking, drinking, and drug use) that can lead to injury, illness or death. During this period, parents and families can greatly influence the growth and development of their children.
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Teen Health Week (April 1-7, 2019) is a global initiative that encourages teens to take charge of their physical and mental health and develop healthy habits. Developing a health routine that includes healthy habits and regular healthcare visits will increase the chance of improved health into adulthood.
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Below are areas where parents and teenagers need to be intentional about health care
1. Gender and Sexual Development
The transition from adolescence into early adulthood can be a scary period. It involves immense physical and psychological development and change. Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t have access to reliable information to help them address the challenges that come with going through puberty.
In many cultures, sexuality remains a taboo subject and comprehensive educational materials can be inconsistent, putting teens at risk of misusing contraceptives, increasing their susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. At this ages, the interest and desire to explore is natural. However, what they need is to be armed with the right information to help them make informed decisions.
It is important for parents to have this conversation with their children. Parents should also ensure that their teenagers regularly visit Specialized adolescent health care providers who can diagnose and help children as they navigate this stage in the event of an unhealthy pattern or challenge.
2. Nutrition and Oral Health
Eating healthy, exercising, and brushing your teeth are all effective ways to improve your nutrition and oral health. However, sometimes they are easier said than done.
For some, eating right is not the hard part, it is having access to the right foods. Globally, many teens are food insecure and malnourished, placing them at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Teens also battle unhealthy eating habits. Some teenage girls might be fixated with wanting to maintain a slim shape or size which most times leads to anorexia. Fast food and sugar-sweetened beverages have not only been associated with adolescent obesity and heart disease, but with bad oral hygiene.
While teenagers need to know that they need to be in charge of their health so that they do not fall sick; Parents need to help them make healthy decisions concerning their eating and oral habits.
3. Preventive Care and Vaccines
Preventive care is a critical aspect of overall health. Regular health screenings, vaccinations, and other measures help identify early health issues and strengthen community health. Early care and preventative measures can be the key to reducing the risk of chronic conditions and long-term illnesses.
However, millions of teens worldwide do not have access to proper healthcare, and preventive care is often inaccessible in places that lack adequate healthcare resources. We need to normalize regular health checks for teenagers and children in general. We do not have to wait until they are sick. Prevention is better than cure!
4. Violence and Mental Health
Violence can take many forms: harassment, cyberbullying, school shootings, self-harm, suicide. These and others have an adverse effect on a person’s mental health. One in five teens have dealt with or will deal with a mental health issue.
Whilst most adolescents have good mental health, multiple physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems.
However, there are many obstacles to proper mental health treatment: social and cultural stigmas; lack of access to healthcare resources; fears of sharing issues with parents, teachers, and peers.
It is crucial to constantly have conversations with teenagers and help them know they can share if they have anything bothering them. It is advisable to share stories and experiences with them so that they know that you can relate and they are not alone.
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5. Substance Use and Misuse
Drug abuse is the new trend among teens in the Nigerian society and it is fast becoming a medical, psychological and social problem.[40% of Nigerian youths engage in drug abuse]. Read the reasons why teenagers engage in drug abuse here.
Drug abuse involves “taking more than the doctor prescribed “. It could bе seen аѕ thе uѕе оf іllісіt drugѕ, оr the abuse оf рrеѕсrірtіоn or over-the-counter drugѕ. It is important to note that teens abuse not only hard/illegal drugs but also legal/prescribed drugs.
Teens start abusing drugs without being aware of the dire consequences. Be actively involved in your child’s life and lecture your children about the dangers of drug abuse. Encourage your children to Say No To Drugs.
6. Social Media Addiction/Influence
It is not easy to raise a teen. Many outside influences distract children and complicate parenting efforts; one of these is social media.
Teenage smartphone addiction is not just texting and talking. It includes repetitive, compulsive use of the device for other activities. Such behaviours are perfectly normal in moderation, however, they become dangerous when tied to an obsessive compulsion.
For teens, cell phones have become a way to comment and criticize, approve and admire. Most teenagers don’t have any measure of self-worth; they have low self-esteem. They tend to view themselves based on what people are saying about them.
Encourage teenagers to be responsible digital citizens. Read how to navigate social media with your child here.
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Teenagers are the future! Spread the word about the importance of teenage health care and join us in improving the future of adolescent health!