Community-based adolescent health services in Israel: from theory to practice

Rachel Wilf-Miron, Fabienne Sikron, Saralee Glasser, Vita Barell
International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health 2002, 14 (2): 139-44
Despite their engagement in health-risk behaviors and their health-related concerns, adolescents have the lowest rate of health service utilization of any age group. Time constraints during routine medical encounters generally leave little opportunity for professional screening for health-risk behaviors or for discussing psychosocial problems. In addition, providers express low levels of perceived competency in areas such as sexuality, eating disorders or drug abuse. To address these needs, a walk-in Adolescent Health Service was established by the Sheba Medical Center to provide diagnosis and short-term treatment for individual adolescents, as well as counseling and support for local care providers. A three-way model of cooperation and partnership was developed and implemented. A professional and financial partnership with local authorities were established to help define the particular needs of the community's youth and to improve the ability to reach youth with special health needs. The partnership along with the main medical provider (Kupat Holim Clalit) helped define local health needs, served as a referral source of patients with unmet health needs, and improved the continuity of care. The regional medical center (Sheba Medical Center) provided supervision and consultation for the medical staff of the service, as well as a referral center for patients. It was emphasized that the service staff was intended as a professional source for the primary physician and should not be considered a rival. The core staff included a specialist in adolescent medicine, gynecologist, mental health specialist and social worker. A structured intake procedure was developed for assessing health concerns and problems of adolescents in the context of a community clinic. Findings from the first years of services showed that the first 547 female adolescents demonstrated that a majority of adolescents presented with primary complaints of a somatic nature, while one third were diagnosed with psychosocial problems and one-fifth with a sexuality-related problem. A considerable percentage of those diagnosed with psychosocial or sexuality-related problems had not stated these issues as their "reason for encounter". This additional increment probably represents the contribution of the Health Concern Checklist (HCC), in which the adolescent was asked to mark each item for which she had concerns or would like to receive further information. The HCC can help primary care physicians as well as adolescent medical specialists approach the teenage patient and initiate productive communication. A practical approach to confidential health care for adolescents: The issue of confidentiality has not been sufficiently clarified by Israeli law or by the medical community. The need for confidentiality was strongly felt in the adolescent health service. A policy which provides all adolescents with the opportunity to meet with a physician and receive health guidance or advice at least once, even without parental knowledge or consent, was formulated and implemented. If parental consent was not feasible, the minor was allowed to give informed consent for medical and psychosocial care for himself/herself, with certain limitations.

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