TEEN SEX: Physicians to Use ‘Straight Talk’
Thousands of California teenagers will help researchers determine whether "straight talk" from a pediatrician can "help them make healthy decisions about sex" and other potentially risky behaviors, the Sacramento Bee reports. Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco recently launched a three-year study to track 3,000 teens by asking them to complete a questionnaire before visits with their pediatrician. Teenagers' behaviors, such as smoking and sexual activity, can have "lifelong consequences," said lead investigator Dr. Elizabeth Ozer. After teens participating in the study complete questionnaires detailing their behaviors, a doctor will ask them questions about risk behaviors, but unless the doctor deems the patient in "great danger," parents are not alerted. Some doctors are hopeful about the outcome. "Most teens do open up and do share what they are doing," said Dr. Karen Camfield. Although most of the 14-year-olds participating in the program are "not engaging in risky behaviors yet," Camfield still engages the teens in discussions about their sexual behavior. If the teenager has decided to postpone sexual activity, Camfield said "she praises the decision as the healthiest choice." But if the patient is having sex, she encourages abstinence but also relates information about pregnancy and STDs. "Since I'm not their parent, I can be understanding, yet not judgmental. With my own children, I am much more emotionally involved, and much more critical," Camfield said. That notion of parent involvement is key, said Dr. Mohammad Akhter, executive director of the American Public Health Association. While the physician's prevention message is good, he said, it "is no substitute for early intervention by the parents. Fourteen, 15, 16 is really too late to do the work" (Griffith, 9/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.