In 2017, only 50% of Illinois adolescents, aged 12-21, received a yearly well-care visit as compared to over 75% of children aged 3-6. This is unfortunate because while adolescence is generally characterized as a time of good health, it also is a time when mental health and substance use disorders may begin to emerge, and a time when teens are more likely to engage in risky health behaviors.
According to the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey for Will County, over one-third of Will County high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 weeks or more, while 16% of students in 12th grade seriously considered attempting suicide. Regarding substance use, 32% of Will County 8th grade students, 40% of 10th grade students, and 62% of 12th grade students reported using one or more substances; including alcohol, cigarettes, inhalants, or marijuana; in the past year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 38% of teens reported having had sex, and 47% of teens did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter.
A yearly well-care visit allows for a trusted healthcare professional to discuss and address these potential issues, and to help set the adolescent up for a lifetime of good health.
Unlike a sports physical, a yearly well-care visit is comprehensive, and typically includes a health history and physical exam, vision and hearing screenings, immunizations and vaccines, and overall physical health.
Physical health would include weight and diet, emotional health screenings, including depression and anxiety screenings, bullying and violence prevention, guidance for healthy relationships, sexual health including the prevention of STDs and pregnancy, and discussion of drug or alcohol use or experimentation.
Raising a healthy adolescent is a lot of work. Parents can get much needed support from their healthcare provider by making an appointment for a yearly well-care visit. The yearly well-care visit is typically covered by insurance with no cost to the parent/guardian (check with your individual plan).
Ideally, this visit should include time for the adolescent to speak privately to their provider. Teens aren’t always comfortable talking about sensitive issues with a parent or guardian in the room, which may prevent potential health issues or behaviors from being discussed and addressed. In addition, it is important for teens to begin to advocate for themselves so they are prepared to take care of their own health as they transition into adulthood.
A yearly well-care visit allows for a trusted healthcare professional to discuss and address important issues, helping to set adolescents up for a lifetime of good health.
Dr. Anusha Khapekar, a graduate of Loyola University and Midwestern University Medical School who previously worked at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, is the Community Health Center’s pediatrician. She strongly encourages parents/guardians to call their healthcare provider today to make a yearly well-care visit for their adolescent.
“The teen years are hard and a lot of things can come up, both mental and physical, that teens are too embarrassed to talk about,” said Khapekar. “They could be struggling with depression or anxiety, perhaps because of social or body image worries.
“Then,” Dr. Khapekar continued, “we also want to make sure they are getting into healthy habits for their adult lives. These are things they will need to be responsible for such as diet, exercise, and going to the dentist.”
If a parent/guardian doesn’t have a provider, they can make an appointment with Dr. Khapekar at the Will County Community Health Center at 815-727-8670. The Community Health Center accepts major insurance plans, Medicaid, and Medicare, and sliding scale fees based on income are offered. The Community Health Center will not turn anyone away based upon ability to pay. If health insurance assistance is needed, the Will County Community Health Center has Certified Application Counselors on site who will help with enrollment into the Affordable Care Act or Marketplace insurance.
For more on Will County Health Department programs, please go to willcountyhealth.org.