March 18-24 is Teen Health Week, which is a global initiative to help teens take charge of their health. Our youth face a lot of unique health challenges on many fronts. It is important they recognize the power they have over their own health and to develop good health habits now.

Suzanne Elliott says that Teen Health Week, which was started two years ago by Philadelphia internist and mother, Dr. Laura Offutt, and sponsored by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, has gone global:

Participants this year include many middle and high school students in Pennsylvania, mostly in the eastern half of the state, and 26 other states, as well as their counterparts in Switzerland, Uganda, Australia, Mongolia, and Argentina.

“In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million adolescents died — over 3,000 every day — mostly from preventable or treatable causes,” she says. “Behaviors of young people are influenced both positively and negatively by friends, family, schools, community and society. This week provides an opportunity across our global communities to emphasize young people’s health education and engagement in a positive way.

“Teens are the agents of change and Teen Health Week specifically involves them in health discussions that can positively affect their well being. In addition to learning the very important skills of health self advocacy, teens too can positively influence health behaviors in other teens, their own families and communities.”


Among the topics being covered this week include violence prevention, preventive care and vaccines, healthy diet and exercise, mental health, sexual development and health, substance use and abuse, and oral health. Toolkits (they can be viewed here) for each topic contain terrific health information and resources for parents and teenagers. We will be covering a few of the topics on The PediaBlog in the coming days.

Today, let’s start with a few tips to help your child take charge of their health:


Ages 11-12:

  • Know your allergies and medications, doses, and take them on schedule
  • Learn your family’s medical history
  • Talk with health care providers directly and know your personal health history
  • Demonstrate healthy diet and exercise habits
  • Talk directly with your health care provider; ask questions, be honest


Ages 13-14:

  • Know when check-ups are due
  • Check-in at appointment by yourself
  • Spend time alone with your provider during healthcare visits
  • Understand privacy and health care rights


Ages 15-16:

  • Know how to make your own appointments and/or contact your health care providers
  • Know how to call the pharmacy to refill prescriptions
  • Understand health insurance


Age 17-18:

  • Plan for switch to another provider if you are moving away from home or transition to an adult provider if needed
  • Understand what your privacy rights are when you turn 18
  • Know whether you are still covered by health insurance


Tomorrow we’ll explore the Teen Health Week Violence Prevention Toolkit.