January is time for some

“Real Talk” about teenage health issues

Teen Health

Time for ‘Real Talk’ about Teen Health

Recognizing the importance of talking to teenagers about critical health issues, from depression to drug abuse, Delaware County Council declared Jan. 9-13 to be Teen Health Week throughout the county. Partners in teen health – all wearing the symbolic bright green wristbands -- are, from left, Shannon Thomas and Jeanne Ewing from the county Office of Behavioral Health, Herbert Hazan, past president of the Radnor Board of Health, Councilman Mike Culp, Dr. Laura Offutt, creator of the digital resource “Real Talk,” Lori Devlin, director of Intercommunity Health, Dr. George Avetian, the county’s senior medical advisor, and back row, David McKeighan, director of the Delaware County Medical Society, and Council members Vice Chair Colleen Morrone, John McBlain and Dave White.

Any parent of a teenager knows the challenge of encouraging teens to be healthy… to exercise, eat vegetables, get enough rest, have healthy relationships and avoid alcohol and drugs. There’s no doubt that the world presents many temptations and unhealthy distractions to our adolescents.

This week, Delaware County Council issued a resolution to affirm that “Council values our young people and we recognize that promoting good physical and mental health in adolescents from ages 10 to 19 is an important goal,” said County Councilman Colleen Morrone.

“Thanks to a group of Delaware County advocates who are promoting teen health, Pennsylvania has declared the second Teen Health Week in the Commonwealth, from Jan. 9-13. We are midway through that week today,” Morrone said.
On Monday, the week kicked off with a rally at the Capitol in Harrisburg. Each day of the week has a special health focus. Monday was diet and exercise. Tuesday was the prevention of violence. On Wednesday, the focus was on mental health, Thursday is sexual development, and Friday is substance use and abuse.

“This initiative started here in Delaware County with Dr. Laura Offutt of Wayne, who created a digital teen health resource called “Real Talk with Dr. Offutt.” Her mission is to engage teens in their health care by encouraging discussion, and by trying to get them to seek accurate, legitimate health information, particularly when they go online,” Morrone said.

Dr. Offutt is an internal medicine physician and the mother of two children. She is a Fellow at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and a volunteer physician at Community Volunteers in Medicine. As the mother of two children, she realized that the majority of teenagers go to the Internet with their health questions. But they are not equipped to determine the accuracy of the information on the Internet.

She created “Real Talk” to spread accurate information and to answer anonymous health questions from teenagers on a wide array of teen health topics from distracted driving and drug addiction to eating disorders and stress.

This year, the Delaware County Office of Behavioral Health and the county System of Care provided support for Dr. Offutt’s Teen Health Week. Two of the county’s children’s mental health specialists attended the Jan. 11 County Council meeting, Shannon Thomas and Jeanne Ewing, and they are well aware of the mental health challenges that today’s teenagers struggle with.

The System of Care, or SOC, is a philosophy about how care should be delivered to youth and their families who have mental health needs. It stresses a collaborative network among many programs, agencies and services.

“We are proud to support Teen Health Week as part of our outreach,” Morrone said. “We hope that recognizing Teen Health Week in Delaware County will encourage young people to be educated and proactive about their health.”

Attending the Jan. 11 meeting were Dr. Laura Offutt, the originator of Teen Health Week and creator of “Real Talk;” Herbert Hazan, past president of the Radnor Board of Health who also served as the director of student health in the Philadelphia School District, and David McKeighan, Executive Director of the Delaware County Medical Society.