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Kids, parents agree some medical care should be confidential

Parents and kids agree some preventative care services that children receive should be confidential.

Researchers say that encouraging teen patients to speak privately with their doctors can help them take ownership of their health, as well as allow them room to discuss sensitive topics on their own. Photo by Dragon Images/Shutterstock

By Tauren Dyson, UPI

Parents and kids agree some preventative care services that children receive should be confidential.

A study published Thursday in the Journal of Adolescent Health indicated that parents and children agree teens should start receiving confidential medical care at age 16. However, clinical guidelines suggest teens should get confidential screening and counseling as early as age 13.

The study looked at survey responses from more than 1,200 children, from ages 13 to 18, and their parents.

"It is encouraging to see that adolescents and their parents are, for the most part, aligned when it comes to their attitudes about preventive care, particularly on the appropriate use of confidentiality during health care visits," Jonathan Klein, professor of pediatrics at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "However, this study perhaps more importantly tells us that pediatricians and family physicians need to do a better job helping parents recognize the benefits of providing adolescents with an opportunity to speak privately with their care provider long before they reach adulthood."

"The largest disagreements were about what specific services should be available confidentially," Klein said.

The study asked adolescents and parents which 10 medical care services people under the age of 18 should receive. The services included STD testing and clinic appointments, emergency contraception, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, abortions, vaccinations, treatment for assaults and injuries and regularly scheduled health checkups.

A split between the preferences of parents and children showed up on the subject of abortion. Adolescents are nearly twice as likely as their parents to want abortion services to be confidential.

"Not surprisingly, the services that cause the largest disagreements are those that are most debated or stigmatized in society - substance abuse counseling and reproductive care, with confidentiality about abortion services causing the most significant disagreement," Klein said.

With that understanding, Klein thinks doctors should advise teens on not only medical issues but also legal advice.

The study reads, "For most teens, a shared understanding and better communication with parents and adolescents may be as relevant as laws, policies and clinician guidelines" when it comes to health."

"By encouraging young patients to speak privately with their doctors, parents help their children learn by small, incremental steps how to take ownership of their own health and they signal to their children that sensitive health-related questions are not an indicator of poor behavior or an avenue for health professionals to pass judgment," Klein said. "They are simply and only about health."

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