It’s not often that household conversations begin with the words, “Mom, can you make me a doctor’s appointment? I think I may have gotten an STD from Jenny, and I want to ask our family pediatrician about it.” The typical teen would not say such a thing to his mother if his life depended on it. The sad fact, however, is that his life just might.
The school’s recent inclusion into a rotating healthcare program for adolescents will ease that dilemma, making vulnerable students safer and healthy choices easier.
Thanks to generous grants, the school now receives visits from Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital’s Teen Health Van, which parks at the edge of campus the last Thursday of every month and provides free healthcare services to students.
Programs like this one have tremendous positive impacts on the lives of people who badly need help. The benefit of good quality healthcare is beyond measure for teens who might never see a doctor otherwise.
But in addition to its role as a saving grace for teens without health insurance, the Teen Health Van has the potential to help solve a widespread problem in healthcare for young people who live well above the poverty line and have had health coverage since birth. The truth is that many teens are afraid to seek answers to medical questions because the only path to a doctor is through their parents and the family physician’s office. When kids enter high school and their medical concerns shift from chickenpox and skinned knees to pregnancy and substance abuse, most are reluctant to confide in their parents or the longtime family doctor.
It is a danger and a shame that most teens cannot easily access healthcare independently of their families. With obstacles like limited transportation, fear of judgement and the worry that one’s parents might even react violently to news of sexual activity or drug use, many teenagers treacherously opt not to seek medical attention or to turn to unprofessional sources for help.
The Teen Health Van takes the first step to protect two highly at-risk sectors of the populations—not only the poverty-stricken uninsured but also lost and vulnerable youth. Though it may not be easy for parents to release control, anyone who truly cares about teen safety should support programs that let minors easily and independently access medical care.