Starting a conversation about adolescent health
Written by Dr. Hatim Omar, chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at UK HealthCare. This blog is the first in a series of posts by Dr. Omar and his team related to the unique health concerns faced by teens and young adults.
When I came to Lexington in 1998, I faced a tough assignment.
Tasked with starting UK HealthCare’s Adolescent Medicine program, I knew that teens in Kentucky were worse off than almost anywhere else in the country. High rates of obesity, suicide, pregnancy and drug use all plagued the Commonwealth’s adolescent population. Instead of seeing the statistics as an insurmountable challenge, I saw an opportunity.
My outlook from the start was that we could make a difference. I knew it wouldn’t take much to change Kentucky if we did things the right way.
That meant tackling adolescent health through three approaches – direct patient care, governmental advocacy and community outreach. I’m happy to say that we have been successful.
Our Adolescent Medicine Clinic now sees more than 10,000 patients each year, and in the nearly 17 years since the program started at UK HealthCare, adolescent health outcomes in Kentucky have improved across the board.
But as with most things, there’s always room for improvement. And that’s why I’m starting this blog about adolescent health and well-being.
One of the most important things we can do – as health care providers, parents, teachers, caregivers and peers – to successfully improve the health of teens and young adults is to facilitate honest and open conversations.
In the coming months, my team in Adolescent Medicine and I will author blog posts about the most pressing health concerns we see in our clinic every day. My hope is that this blog can enhance those conversations and bring the discussions about the unique health concerns faced by adolescents to a wider audience.
I encourage you to share this post with the young adults in your life as well as parents and caregivers who have teenagers.