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Parents doubt older teens are ready to manage their health care, U of M poll finds

National Poll on Children's Health
C.S. Mott Children's Hospital

Many parents don't believe their  18- to 19-year-olds are ready to manage their own health care.  

According to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, 69% of parents think adolescents should move to an adult-focused primary care provider by age 18. But only 30% of  the parents reported that their adolescents had transitioned from their pediatricians by age 18.  

The poll surveyed a national sample of parents of adolescents and young adults aged 13-30.

According to the poll's summary report, the delayed transition to adult care may relate to parents' views of their teens' lack of readiness to take responsibility for their own health care.

Emily Fredericks, associate professor of pediatrics at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the U of M Medical School, said that parents of 16- to 19-year-olds "were not confident in their adolescents' ability to do such things as make their own doctor's appointments or refill prescriptions."  

The poll showed that only about half of parents think their 18- to 19-year-olds know how to fill out a medical history form or make a doctor's appointment, and less than 30% think their older teenagers know what their insurance covers.

According to Fredericks, parents can help teens learn these skills by gradually teaching them to play a more active role in their health care. She said parents should prepare their younger teens "by encouraging them to participate in conversations with their health-care providers, to refill their prescriptions as they get older, and to learn how to make appointments" and how their health insurance works. 

This will help them be ready to navigate the adult health-care system when they leave home for college or to live independently.

– Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom