Adolescent Screenings and Evaluations
What are Adolescent Screenings?
Table of Contents
Adolescent screenings are used by health professionals to assess the overall health of a child and to pinpoint problems to treat.
Why are Screenings Important?
Some of the most serious problems that adolescent screenings highlight are obesity, depression, risky sexual activity and STIs, gender issues, substance abuse, and environmental violence. We will discuss all those issues in this article.
How Adolescent Screenings Help Children Heal
Once problems are found during screenings appropriate treatment plans can be made and healing can begin. The screening allows health professionals to zero in on the most important issues and make sure those are treated first.
Video: Talking about health with your child
HEEADSSS Screening Tools
Doctors and mental health professionals use a series of questions they call “tools” to gather a patient’s psychosocial history. One popular assessment tool is the HEEADSSS assessment.1
This screening method has gone through several updates over the years. Doctors used to call it HEADSS, but greater awareness for social issues that affect adolescents has meant doctors have added new letters to the term.1
HEEADSSS stands for:
Doctors will usually use this tool, which includes lots of questions in each category, in a quiet environment.
D: Do any of your friends or family members use alcohol or drugs? Do you use tobacco or drugs?
S: Have you ever been in a romantic relationship? Are you interested in girls or boys, or are you not yet sure?
S: Do you find you are feeling more stressed or anxious than you usually do?
S: Have you ever met or plan to meet up with a person you met online? Is there a lot of violence in your home or school?
H: What are your relationships like at home? Have you ever run away?
E: Is your school a safe place? Have you ever felt bullied at school?
E Have you had any recent changes in your weight? What would you feel like if you gained or lost 10 pounds?
Screening for Childhood Obesity
Statistics on the Adolescent Obesity Problem
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of adolescents and children who are obese has tripled over the past 50 years.2 Nearly 20 percent of all young people ages 6 to 19 years old are obese.
Risks and Complications
Management and Prevention
Managing adolescent obesity often requires a coordinated effort among the adolescent, parents, and teachers. Sometimes, their pediatrician may also be involved.
Both management and prevention involve teaching young people to adopt healthier habits at as young an age as possible. Examples of these habits include:2
Screening for Depression
Statistics on Adolescent Depression
The number of adolescents who experience depression and anxiety has consistently increased over time, according to the CDC.3 Doctors have diagnosed an estimated 8.4 percent of adolescents with depression and anxiety.
Suicide and Self-Harm Risks
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Text the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741
Video: Adolescent Depression
Signs of Depression
Depression is different from just feeling sad from time to time. Someone with depression may experience the following symptoms:4
Unfortunately, some adolescents who struggle with depression may also experience suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm.
According to Planned Parenthood, sexual education in adolescence can help young people avoid the early effects of sexual activity.5 This includes pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
What Does it Mean to be Sexually Active?
The Benefits of Comprehensive Sexual Education
Sexual education from parents, teachers, healthcare providers, and other trusted authority figures can help to prevent risky behaviors whenever possible. Examples of health goals include:
Early Childhood and Continuing Sexual Education
Using age-appropriate terms and education for sexual education, even at an early age, can help young people develop a healthier sense of their sexual health and well-being.
Addressing Sexual Violence
Working to prevent sexual violence whenever possible requires addressing all the potential factors that can lead to sexual violence. Examples include:
Screening for STIs
Why Adolescents are Responsible for 50% of All New STIs?
Adolescence is a time of significant physical exploration -- and this includes sexual exploration and experimentation. Because adolescents may not have access to or education about the effects of sexual experimentation, they face higher risks for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Strategies for STI prevention
STI prevention strategies include using condoms when engaging in sexual activity. Also, emphasizing monogamy and regular testing can help treat and prevent STIs.
Educating adolescents about where they can receive free STI testing is important. Examples include local health departments and many non-profit community health resources.
Screening for Gender Issues
An estimated 0.17 to 1.3 percent of adolescents identify themselves as transgendered, according to an article in the journal Adolescent Health, Medicine, and Therapeutics. 6 Experiencing early gender issues can affect the ability to form identity. Without support, a young person can face issues that include anxiety, depression, and fear.
Mental Impact of Gender Dysphoria
According to an article in the journal Adolescent Health, Medicine, and Therapeutics, higher numbers of adolescents are seeking treatment for gender dysphoria in the United States.6 Those with gender dysphoria may experience some of the following thoughts and emotions:
Those thoughts and emotions are troubling to many children and require proper treatment to avoid problems stemming from gender issues. The most important thing is to have open and honest discussions so that the child can explore their gender identity in a safe environment. Medical professionals can then help the entire family through the challenges caused by gender dysphoria.
Screening for Environmental Violence
Impact of Abuse from Parents
Impact of Hunger and Poverty
Impact of Community Violence
Just as adolescents are more likely to engage in sexual exploration, they’re also more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.1 Unfortunately, abusing substances can increase the risks of motor vehicle accidents and death.
Statistics on Adolescent Drug Use
In a survey of adolescent drug use by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers found there were lower rates of prescription opioids and cigarette smoking over the past five years.8 However, vaping is on the rise in adolescents. This includes the use of vaping marijuana.
When asked about alcohol, the following grades reported past-month use of alcohol:8
The Dangers of Mixing Substances
How to Identify Adolescent Drug Use
One of the ways to identify adolescent drug use is to simply ask about what drugs or medications a young person has experimented with. They may also ask about a young person’s family history of alcohol, tobacco, or drug abuse as this can increase the risks that a young person will also abuse drugs or alcohol.1
How to Treat Adolescent Drug Use
More Resources for Parents