Taking your teen to the doctor on a bright summer day may not be tops on your list. But health care providers say there are strong reasons for young people from 12 to 21 to come in once a year, even if they aren’t sick.

“Teens face social pressures,” said Misha Caldwell, PNP, nurse practitioner at Columbia Memorial’s Pediatric Clinic in Astoria. “At the annual visit, the provider checks in on their emotional as well as physical health.”

An adolescent well care visit covers a lot of ground:

• Medical history update and review of current health conditions.

• Blood pressure, height and weight compared to previous year.

• Immunization updates and new vaccines to protect against meningitis and HPV.

• Screening for issues that may affect school and sports performance, such as hearing, vision, anemia, depression and mental health.

• Screening for high-risk behaviors, including substance use.

Parents can think of this annual visit as an opportunity to get some outside support.

“When health care providers review health risks with teens, they are talking about many behaviors that worry parents,” said Caldwell, such as substance use, sexual behavior, mood, suicide prevention or gun safety, as appropriate, as well as school performance and future life plans. What teens hear from their health care provider is that these choices can have important consequences.

At age 15, Oregon teens have medical confidentiality. That means they can talk confidentially to a clinician without a parent in the room.

“This is a chance for teens to ask questions they might be more comfortable asking their primary care clinician than a teacher or parent,” said Caldwell. “We may talk to them about bullying, healthy relationships, sleep and screen use, substance use and family planning.”

Let the health care provider know if your teen participates in sports. The annual adolescent well care visit covers everything that a typical sports physical covers, and more.

Almost everyone with health insurance gets a no-fee annual wellness visit, including Oregon Health Plan members.

As teens are transition to adulthood, the changes and challenges are huge. Young people benefit from having a trusted non-parental adult in their life. That may be a teacher, a coach or a favorite relative.

And on a sunny summer day that trusted voice could be their primary care provider.

Columbia Memorial Hospital’s Pediatric Clinic provides health care for Columbia Pacific CCO members who are on the Oregon Health Plan. Established in September 2012, Columbia Pacific CCO coordinates health services for more than 25,000 Oregon Health Plan members in Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties. You can learn more about our services on our website at colpachealth.org or on Facebook at @ColumbiaPacificCCO.

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