Purpose: To compare adolescents' report of topics they wanted to discuss with their providers with what they actually discussed, and whether they talked to their providers about their self-reported health risks.
Methods: We analyzed the 1997 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls, a nationally representative sample of 6728 in-school adolescent boys and girls in 5th through 12th grade. Respondents reported on health risks, whether they believed their provider should discuss certain topics, and whether their provider did talk about health-related topics. Logistic regression was used to compare proportions and assess the associations among variables.
Results: Adolescents most frequently discussed healthy dietary habits (49%), weight (43%), and exercise (41%) with their clinicians but most frequently wanted to discuss drugs (65%), smoking (59%), and healthy dietary habits (57%). Overall, 70.9% of the sample reported at least one of eight potential health risks, but 63% of these adolescents had not spoken to their doctor about any of these risks. Using logistic regression models, having a female provider (odds ratio [OR] 1.41), obtaining health care information from a doctor (OR 1.72) and from the Internet (OR 1.50), speaking privately with their provider (OR 1.45), and reporting more total risk factors (OR 1.59) were each associated with having discussed any risks.
Conclusions: Adolescents want and need to discuss health care issues with their providers but often do not. Providing quality preventive care to adolescents will require increased physician screening and counseling about these issues.