Teen health study: Less than half are being screened for depression

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Less than half of teenagers in Minnesota are being adequately screened for depression, a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health concludes.

The analysis of Minnesota health clinics measured how many patients age 12-17 were screened for depression or other mental health concerns as part of their preventive checkups in 2014.

The study found that only 40 percent of those teens received a mental health screening. Of the 43,400 that were screened, about 10 percent of them (4,300) showed signs of depression, anxiety or attention disorders, MPR News reports.

The health department study found wide variations among clinics, with some screening no teen patients and others screening the vast majority of them. Only eight of the 513 clinics studied screened 100 percent of their adolescent patients last year, according to the study.

You can see how each clinic in the state performed in this searchable database.

The health department noted such screening is important for teenagers, since half of all cases of mental illness begin showing up by age 14.

“It’s really hard, even as a parent, to say what’s the difference between being a normal teenager and a teenager with depression,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota. “Screening is a thermometer – it can tell you something might be wrong, like when you take your child’s temperature to determine if he or she has a fever.”

Better results addressing obesity

While mental health screening is not done as consistently as the health department would like, clinics are doing a better job of counseling teenagers who are overweight or obese.

The same study shows that 85 percent of teens who are overweight were given counseling advice about nutrition and physical activity by their provider.

Again, the rates varied from clinic to clinic, but the survey found 71 clinics provided 100 percent of their overweight pediatric patients with counseling last year.

Here's the searchable database which shows how each clinic performed on this measure.

Why are these being measured?

Over the past several years, the Minnesota Department of Health has developed a standard set of criteria to measure the quality of health care providers across the state.

The mental health screening and obesity counseling were recently added to the list of 12 clinic measures, eight of which apply to primary care clinics, according to the health department.

The goal of the measurement system is to provide solid data to consumers so they can make more informed decisions about their health care.

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