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Juvenile approach: teens need medicine tailored for them

What is the appropriate age for a teenager to take responsibility for their own medicine? It’s not a question with a clear-cut answer.

NPS MedicineWise, an Australian not-for-profit organisation, wants to educate teens and their families on the importance of being ‘medicine-wise’ as they grow up and become responsible for their own health.

“The basic principle is that as children get older and as they become teenagers, we need to encourage them, as health professionals, to start being well-educated about their medicines,” Dr Jeannie Yoo, clinical adviser for NPS MedicineWise, said.

Yoo explained that teenagers at the GP’s office need counselling tailored to their unique needs. It’s not just about what medicines to take and how. A healthcare professional needs to be able to gauge a younger person’s independence and also, quite simply, know how to talk to a teen. She gave a few tips on how to approach a teenager’s needs. The first thing to do, once a teenager becomes self-reliant enough to start seeing health professionals on their own, is to make sure they have an up-to-date action plan for administering their own medicine.

A handy way to keep teens on top of their own health regimes is technology. There are smartphone apps and other helpful gadgets to manage an illness, aimed at teens as well as the people responsible for them.

“Smartphones are a great way to set reminders and alarms, so that an important medicine is not missed,” Yoo pointed out. “NPS MedicineWise has an app called MedicineList+, which allows parents and carers to help teenagers enter the times and details of the doses of their medicines, as well as to record medical conditions. This information can also be emailed to schools to help with medicines or with managing a health condition.”

Technology and the internet are not without their hazards, however. It’s the duty of every doctor and nurse to remember to advise teenagers of the fact that not every bit of information available from Google is reliable.

“We can help them be selective about the sources of information they go to, to encourage them to be able to recognise what's a reliable fact-based source of information,” Yoo said. “[We need] to remind them that their doctor or their nurse or their pharmacist is there and ready to be a reliable source of information about their medicines, and always happy to be approached about their medicines and any questions teenagers might have.”

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