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Editor,—We agree with Oppong-Odiseng and Heycock that adolescents have clear views regarding the nature of services which they would like to see provided.1 We know that adolescents worry about their health and often feel anxious about consulting their own family doctor. Confidentiality is a major issue and previous work has shown that many adolescents write anonymously to “agony aunts” to have their questions answered.2 The advice columnist from MIZZ magazine receives up to 400 letters per week from adolescents whom she says “feel they do not have anyone else to turn to for help”, and Sugarmagazine gets up to 300 letters per month. Girls write mainly about their periods, breast size and shape, body image, and with concerns about eating disorders. Both males and females worry about sexual orientation, HIV, acne, and dying and bereavement.
To try and answer some of our adolescent questions locally we liaised with form tutors to provide health related seminars. We asked pupils to anonymously contribute questions for discussion. Questions were wide ranging, for example, “How big is the average male penis?” “Why are my breasts asymmetrical?” “How much exercise should I take?” “Why are my periods not regular?” The questions were addressed in the tutor group sessions and written material provided after each session. These tutorials were rated by pupils as the most popular and informative sessions of the year long personal and social development programme.
Studies such as that of Oppong-Odiseng and Heycock highlight various issues regarding health services for adolescents. Adolescents are asking for more information on topics that worry them and they are asking for drop-in centres and specific adolescent health specialists. We must ensure that adolescents know what their local health related services are and must make sure that these services are user friendly and staffed by adolescent friendly doctors. Taking adolescent views into consideration and planning services accordingly are the first steps in persuading adolescents to use these services.
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