Doctors concerned over decline in teenagers' check-ups

Lawton_Parents take their kids to the doctor regularly when they're young, but once the children are older and received all of their immunizations, regular doctors visits seem to slow.  Doctors say that once children reach their teens, health care takes a back seat.  Doctors say they are noticing less and fewer teens coming in for regular check-ups.  "Adults usually have annual physicals and so it is important for a kid to have one as well," said local physician Dr. Tom Atkinson.

A new report says that teens fall through the cracks of the healthcare system too often, and Atkinson says it happens even before the teen years are reached.  "Starting about the age of four when the immunization schedule stops for giving immunizations - and then when school starts - we see a big decline in routine appointments," he said.

This drop in visits to physicians has some doctors concerned, and they say during the "tween" and teen ages, some major health problems can manifest.  "We have a growing obese population in the country, and because of that we are having growing numbers of children with type 2 diabetes which is generally an adult disease," he said.  "But, we are starting to see them more."

Many see a pediatrician until they are teenagers, and sometimes going into a baby-filled facility can be uncomfortable for teens.  "You don't necessarily want to go if you are surrounded by little, little kids," said Atkinson.  "But it is also the fact of kids start feeling like they know everything, and they feel invincible - they don't feel like anything can happen to them."

Doctors say parents must make sure their teens are getting their annual checkups and being honest with their doctor about what they are doing.  "You may want to have a period where you can step out of the room so that the teen may have an avenue to say things that a parent can't hear," he said.

While teens tend to go to the doctor only when they need a physical for a school activity, doctors say a visit every few years is not enough.