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Connecting More Oregon Teens with Health Care

Health checkups aren't top-of-mind for most Oregon teens, but getting more young people to get regular screenings is a statewide goal of the Oregon Health Authority. Credit: Mary R. Vogt/Morguefile.
Health checkups aren't top-of-mind for most Oregon teens, but getting more young people to get regular screenings is a statewide goal of the Oregon Health Authority. Credit: Mary R. Vogt/Morguefile.
August 11, 2015

MEDFORD, Ore. – One of Oregon's state health priorities is getting more teens the regular preventive care that will help establish healthy habits in adulthood. But adolescents are busy, and some have to be convinced that it's OK to talk with an adult about their concerns.

As a group, teens may often seem carefree, but Dr. Matt Hough with Jackson Care Connect in Medford says there are plenty of big issues in their lives, from depression and anxiety, to drug and alcohol use and premarital sex. Hough says the doctor's office should be a safe place to talk.

"It's really about figuring out where they are and how we can support them," he says. "Teens engage in risky behavior, no matter what parents think, and so it's really an opportunity for another adult to get in there and talk to them in a supportive way to kind of get them on the right track."

A year ago, Jackson Care Connect started giving teenaged patients a questionnaire to fill out as a conversation-starter about tough issues. Hough says he's been surprised and pleased at how many kids are candid about their concerns, and he notes teens also have rights in terms of doctors keeping their information confidential.

At the Yamhill Community Care Organization in McMinnville, one approach that's working to get kids into clinics is "Teen Swag Night" – evening appointments in an "open house" atmosphere, with games and giveaways provided by local merchants.

Whether it's an immunization or a sports physical, Dr. Jackie Eriksen says it's a chance to catch up on their checkups – and their friends.

"In our community, we saw 137 kids that night," she says. "They said it was really fun because there were other teens there; it was a nice environment. We also tried to make it kind of a fun night, so they could see the clinic in a little different light."

The Oregon Health Authority has made outreach to teens one of the quality measures it uses to assess how well Coordinated Care Organizations are meeting the needs of Oregon Health Plan or Medicaid patients.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR