Health professionals are often failing to recognise complex health issues such as depression, obesity and smoking in teenagers, an adolescent health expert says.
Young people commonly visit their GP with respiratory illnesses including asthma, colds and viruses but neglect to mention underlying health issues, which they may not regard as problems, a University of Melbourne academic says.
Professor of Adolescent Health Susan Sawyer said many of these patients have multiple health issues around drug and alcohol use, risky sexual activity, domestic violence, bullying and obesity.
She said longer consultation times for teenagers should be supported by Medicare rebates to allow GPs to explore broader health issues experienced by adolescents.
She said one in 10 young people suffered from asthma and this presented an opportunity for doctors to address the respiratory complaint and other invisible health problems at the same time.
'Our health care system doesn't support doctors spending the required time with young people to really be identifying these sorts of issues,' Prof Sawyer, who is also director of the Centre for Adolescent Health at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital, told AAP.
'We have the over-75 check, under four check, and indigenous health check that are Medicare-funded items that really allow the doctor to engage in a much more preventative focus.
'It is the adolescent population that is really missing out at the very time that many of these behaviours or states are emerging.
'My sense is that doctors recognise that broader role they have for adults but somehow they have failed to conceptualise that they have this same role for teenagers,' she said.
Prof Sawyer said an annual, Medicare-funded preventative health check for all age groups, but especially adolescents, could help reduce rates of diseases such as type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
Prof Sawyer appeared this week at the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Annual Scientific Meeting, a respiratory conference in Canberra.