BACKGROUND: The World Health Organization encourages the development of youth friendly services, yet little is known on how youth currently present in general practice.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the perspectives, expectations, and service receipt of young people presenting to family doctors to inform the development of youth friendly services.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.
PARTICIPANTS AND MEASUREMENTS: Consecutive young people attending 26 randomly selected practices were recruited in the waiting rooms. Standardized instruments were used to interview them before their consultation.
RESULTS: Of 501 young people who were approached, 450 participated (91% participation rate). Most had respiratory (26%) or dermatological complaints (18%). When asked to assess their health status, 59% perceived they had neither a physical nor a mental illness. However, 43% stated they had fears about their health problem and 1 in 5 feared it could be life-threatening. Although only 10% presented with psychological complaints, 24% perceived they currently had a mental illness. The most common expectations were treatment (50%) and good communication (42%). Most youth were prescribed medication (60%), but 40% of those who received a prescription had not expected to receive a treatment. A follow-up appointment was offered to 57% of participants.
CONCLUSIONS: This study identifies a gap between young people's perception of illness and their presentations to family doctors. It also highlights unexpected fears, and a mismatch between expectations and service receipt. These findings have implications for family medicine training and for clinical practice. They should inform the development of youth friendly services.
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