Back to School: What's new with school physicals?

August 22, 2011 6:02:21 AM PDT
Dr. Marie Brister-Brown, a family medicine physician in Chicago, visits ABC7 to talk about what you can expect at your child's next physical.

Dr. Brister-Brown specializes in the treatment of adolescents physical and social/emotional conditions at MetroSouth Health Center at Morgan Park.

1) Illinois students are required to complete a physical four times in their career: entering preschool/daycare, kindergarten, sixth grade and high school (9th grade). Vaccines are generally given at those same times.

However, the nature of school physicals has changed over the past year to include more screening for social/emotional issues and a discussion on sexual responsibility.

2)Screening for social/emotional issues:
Family medicine physicians and pediatricians now include a private conversation with a young patient to screen for issues such as cutting/self-mutilation, violence in the home, depression, thoughts of suicide, alcohol/drug use.

In the absence of a parent, students often open up to a doctor and may really be looking for help. This provides the doctor an opportunity to talk to the child about seeking help.

A doctor could ask:
- "How are you doing in school?"
- "What do you do outside of school?"
- "Tell me about your friends and what you like to do?"
- "How do you get along with your family?"
- "What happens when your parents get mad?"

Note: Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants. At least 4 percent of preschoolers -- more than 1 million -- are clinically depressed, according to Psychiatric Services. The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23 percent, according to the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter.

3) Sexual responsibility and STD's (especially HPV)
According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year there are an estimated 10 million cases of STDs among people ages 15-24. The FDA recently approved the use of HPV (Gardasil) for boys. This has been recommended for girls for several years. While there isn't the same link to cancer among boys, HPV is a sexually transmitted disease spread from one sex to the other. The boys' vaccine protects both the boy and a partner.

According to the CDC, 46 percent of high schoolers are sexually active and 34 percent do not use condoms (2009 statistics).

Starting as young as 11 or 12, definitely by middle school, most family medicine physicians and pediatricians are now discussing sexual responsibility with patients. At some point during the exam, the doctor will ask the parent to leave the room. He/she asks questions such as: "Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" "What do you do with him/her when you are alone?" "Have you had sex?" "What kind of birth control do you use?" "Have you ever been pregnant?"


Hospital offers free movie ticket for physicals completed by Sept. 30

Blue Island, IL, -- MetroSouth Medical Center has just the ticket for its Southland neighbors who want to live healthier lives. Through September 30, 2011, the hospital is offering a free AMC movie ticket (or a re-usable lunch bag for kids) to patients who complete a physical examination with one of the primary care physicians at any of these health center locations:

Alsip 12246 S. Pulaski, Alsip, 708.385.5601
Beverly 11238 S. Western, Chicago, 773.238.1111
Blue Island Doctors Pavilion, 2310 York St., Blue Island,
Suite 5A 708.489.7800
Suite 4D 708.489.7760
Morgan Park 1701 W. Monterey, Chicago, 773.298.9800
South Holland 401 E. 162nd, South Holland, 708.210.2001

This movie ticket offer is part of MetroSouth Medical Center's "Let's Get Physicals" campaign, an effort to encourage area residents to get an annual physical exam. Research shows that patients who regularly see a primary care physician live longer and have fewer hospital stays.

Taking less than an hour, a typical physical exam includes a screening for high blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions. A physical exam also establishes a 'health baseline' with a primary care physician for continued care and it provides an opportunity to talk with a physician privately about any health concerns before they become more serious.

The MetroSouth primary care physicians recommend that patients see a primary care physician for a yearly physical, no matter what their age. They also recommend seeing a primary care physician for school physicals, chronic illnesses, alcohol and drug use problems, gynecologic exams and conditions that arise such as a cold or flu.

To learn more about the "Let's Get Physicals" movie ticket offer, visit

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