The following is a statement from Theodore Christopher, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. Dr. Christopher is also professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He reacts to the importance of Global Teen Health Week.
(Harrisburg, Pa. – 3/12/18) What started as a Pennsylvania-only initiative two years ago has blossomed into a global project that highlights issues facing teens and ways to address them.
Global Teen Health Week runs March 18-24 and is drawing participation not only from middle and high school students here in Pennsylvania but also their counterparts in Switzerland, Uganda, Australia, and Argentina to name a few international locations.
Dr. Laura Offutt, a member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Society for Adolescent Medicine and Health, and the American College of Physicians and a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, gets credit for bringing this special week together, and the week has some credible endorsements including the American Medical Association.
She has plans to cover some very important topics throughout the week. In fact, there are seven different themed days. In order, starting on Sunday, the issues include violence prevention, preventive care and vaccines, healthy diet and exercise, mental health, sexual development and health, substance use and abuse, and oral health.
For Pennsylvania, these are all serious topics that need to be elevated. Consider a recent report from the DEA titled Analysis of Overdose Deaths in Pennsylvania, 2016. According to the report, individuals aged 15-24 saw a 380 percent increase in the presence of fentanyl in toxicology reports. Among drug-related overdose deaths for those up to age 14, prescription opioids were present in the body in nearly 45 percent of decedents.
And, then there’s the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health that shows 31.7 percent of those ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese.
We don’t need to share any more concerning statistics. You get the point. This is serious stuff that will negatively impact the future of our state’s teens.
But why another health recognition week? Well, first of all, as of last year, there were none dedicated just to teen health issues. According to Dr. Offutt, “I hear of weeks about bullying education or drug awareness. It seemed that perhaps schools would want to do a week dedicated to teen health. That was really the beginning of the idea.”
And, unlike many other themed weeks which have a top-down approach, Global Teen Health Week topics come from students who advise Dr. Offutt.
“I interact with as many teens as possible. I learn what they’re interested in,” said Dr. Offutt during a 2016 media interview.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society sees this as a good approach and believes this week shows promise in helping to raise awareness of important teen health issues. Details can be found online at https://www.collegeofphysicians.org/thw and we encourage more schools in the Keystone State to join the movement by highlighting these topics from March 18-24.