Most Indian parents stop taking their children to a paediatrician after their immunisations or frequent illnesses after the age of five. But paediatricians feel physicians who treat adults are not equipped to deal with adolescents, who face a different set of physical and emotional pressures.
The Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) will soon approach the Central Ministry of Health with a proposal to mandate that everyone till age 18 should go to a paediatrician when medical help is required. They also want the government to make ‘adolescent medicine’ a separate subject in the post-graduate paediatrics curriculum.
“In all developed countries, adolescents go to paediatricians not general practitioners or specialists,” said IAP president Dr Deepak Ugra. “In India, there is a lot of confusion about who should treat 12- to 18-year-olds. We want this to end.”
Paediatricians argue that teenagers resemble children, both physically and mentally, more than adults. “Physicians are trained to deal with people who have already been developed whereas paediatricians deal with the development stage,” said Goregaon-based paediatrician Dr Samir Dalwai.
He added that paediatricians could pick the signs of depression and stress among teens and either address them or refer the case to a child psychologist.
IAP has been holding courses to train doctors in adolescent medicine, which includes the medical and psychological care of patients in that age group.