Health Topics


Teens and Confidentiality

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Teens and Confidentiality

We want parents and teens to talk early and often about sexuality, drug use, and mental health. Your job is not over yet! Parents play an important role in their teen’s health behavior. Yet as teens begin to mature, one-on- one time with a health care provider is a part of growing up. They begin to learn how to advocate for their own health care needs or manage a chronic health condition on their own. These are important things all teens should learn how to do. During this time, teens may ask questions or raise concerns that they might not be ready to discuss with you. Maybe they are too embarrassed. In Minnesota, teens have the right to confidential care around pregnancy, family planning, STI testing and treatment, and drug and alcohol abuse treatment.

While confidentiality does mean that teens can keep certain details of their visit private, we want to partner with and support you in this journey of parenting, since YOU are your teen’s most important adult. Also, confidentiality has its limits. If there is a threat to your teen’s life or another person’s life, providers have the duty to inform you and sometimes someone else, like a social worker, to make a plan to protect your teen.


Teen Friendly Clinic Visits

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Congratulations! Your child is becoming an adolescent! This is an exciting life stage filled with unique opportunities and occasional challenges. All providers that see teenagers look forward to working with you and your teen on how best to navigate these ups and downs. During the clinic visit, they will ask your child directly what the reason is for their visit, and they will explain the treatment plan to him/her. Providers want your teen to know that they regard them as their patient and respect their feelings, wishes, and concerns.

Also, teens need to practice these self-care skills, and starting early allows them to get the hang of it before they are on their own. This will help the teen patient be aware of the importance of taking responsibility for their own health.

Another way providers encourage teens to participate in their own care is to spend time alone with them at the visit. There may be some things your teen will feel more comfortable talking about only with the provider. This is a change from when he/she was younger, but it is the recommended way to best serve teens. Providers will usually see you with your child first, then with the child on his or her own. They can also be a resource to you as you navigate how to parent a teen. They would be happy to meet with you. Remember that parenting a teen is not always easy, but your job is still so very important. You are the most powerful role model in your teen’s life. Sharing your values around alcohol, drugs, sexuality, and interpersonal relationships is vitally important.

Start early, and talk often!



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Many people think that vaccinations are just for kids. But guess what? There are millions of people between the ages of 11 and 19 who need vaccinations to prevent diseases like whooping cough, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, chickenpox, measles, mumps, influenza, meningitis, and human papilloma virus infection.

Getting vaccinated is a lifelong, life-protecting job. Make sure your teen keeps vaccines up to date.

Hepatitis B: Teens need a series of doses of hepatitis B vaccine if they have not already received them.

Measles, Mumps, & Rubella (MMR): Check with their doctor to make sure they’ve had 2 doses of MMR.

Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (Tdap): Teens need a dose of Tdap at age 11–12 years. If they are older and haven’t received it yet, they should get it soon. After that they will need a tetanus-diphtheria (Td) booster dose every ten years.

Polio: If your teen has not completed the series of polio vaccine doses and she/he is not yet 18, she/he should complete them now.

Chickenpox: If teens have not been previously vaccinated and have not had chickenpox, they should get vaccinated against this disease. The vaccine is given as a 2-dose series. Any teenager who was vaccinated as a child with only 1 dose should get a second dose now.

Hepatitis A: Anyone can get infected with hepatitis A. That is why many teens want to be protected by vaccine. Some teens, however, have an even greater chance of getting the disease. These risk factors include traveling outside the United States, babysitting or living with a child who was adopted from a foreign country within the last 60 days, being a male who has sex with other males, using illegal drugs, or having a clotting factor disorder or chronic liver disease. Talk to your healthcare provider about this 2-dose series of shots.

Papilloma Virus ( HPV): All adolescents and teens should get a series of 3 doses of HPV vaccine, beginning at age 11–12 years. The vaccine protects against HPV (the most common cause of cervical cancer) and certain other types of cancers.

Influenza: Every person, beginning at age 6 months and continuing throughout their lifetime, should receive the influenza vaccine every fall or winter. Vaccination is the most effective step you can take to protect your teenager from this serious disease.

Pneumonia: If your teen has a chronic health problem talk to her/his doctor about whether she/he should receive a pneumococcal shot.

Meningitis: All teens ages 11–18 years need a dose of Meningococcal vaccine (MCV4). If they received a dose when they were age 11–15 and are now age 16–18, they need a booster dose. If they are age 19–21 years and are a first-year college student living in a dorm, they need a dose of MCV4 if they never received it before or received a dose when they were younger than 16 years. Check with their doctor.


How Are Drug Abuse and HIV Related?

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Drug abuse and addiction have been closely related with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. Although injection drug use is well known in this regard, the role that non-injection drug abuse plays in the spread of HIV is less known.

Injection drug use:
People typically associate drug abuse and HIV/AIDS with injection drug use and needle sharing. Injection drug use refers to when a drug is injected into a tissue or vein with a needle.

When injection drug users share their needles, syringes, and other drug injection stuff—HIV can be transmitted between users. Other infections—such as hepatitis C that causes serious liver disease —can also be transmitted this way.

Effects of drugs in the body: Drug use can worsen the progression of HIV and its consequences, especially in the brain. For example, HIV causes more harm to nerve cells in the brain among people who abuse drugs than among people with HIV who don’t.

Drug abuse treatment: Since the late ‘80s, researchers have found that treating drug abuse could prevent the spread of HIV. When people who have a drug problem enter treatment, they stop or reduce their drug use and related risk behaviors, including drug injection and unsafe sexual practices.



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What is HPV?

HPV is a common virus that is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity with another person. It is possible to have HPV without knowing it and to unknowingly spread HPV to another person.

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) cause a large number of cancers of the mouth and throat, cervix and genital organs. HPV are the most common sexually transmitted viruses in the United States, and the highest prevalence of HPV infection is found in sexually active adolescents and young adults.

Why does my teen need the HPV vaccine when they are not having sex?

1st The vaccine produces the highest antibody response when given at ages 9 through 15 years. It works better!

2nd The vaccine is most effective for preteens to get all 3 doses long before any sexual activity with another person begins. It is possible to become infected with HPV the very first time a person has sexual contact with another person. It’s most effective!

3rd Getting the first dose of vaccine at 11-12 years of age fits in with the routine pre-7th grade physical and immunization schedule. It’s recommended!

What do I need to know about the vaccine?
The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that girls and boys, 11-12 years of age, receive the HPV vaccine to protect them from the most common types of HPV and the health problems that the virus can cause. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women.

The vaccine is given in 3 doses over a period of 6 months.

Contact your health care provider for further information about this vaccine.


Parents of Sexually Healthy Adolescents

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  • Demonstrate value, respect, acceptance, and trust in their teenager children.
  • Model sexually healthy attitudes in their own relationships.
  • Maintain a non-punitive stance toward sexuality.
  • Are knowledgeable about sexuality.
  • Discuss sexuality with their children.
  • Provide information on sexuality to their children.
  • Seek appropriate guidance and information as needed.
  • Try to understand their teenager’s point of view.
  • Set and maintain limits for dating and other activities outside of school.
  • Stay actively involved in their teenager’s life.
  • Ask questions about friends and romantic partners.
  • Provide a supportive and safe environment for their children.
  • Offer to assist adolescents in accessing health care services.
  • Help their daughter or son plan for their future.



From Facing Facts: Sexual Health for America’s Adolescents, SIECUS, New York, NY, 1995.