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Background: Adolescent health is regarded as central to global health goals. Investments made in adolescent health and health services protect the improvements witnessed in child health. Though Saudi Arabia has a large adolescent population, adolescent health-care only began to emerge in recent years, yet widespread uptake has been very limited. Health-care providers are key in addressing and providing the necessary health-care services for adolescents, and so this study was conducted with the aim of identifying opportunities for the advancement of knowledge transfer for adolescent health services in Saudi Arabia.
Methods: This Web-based, cross-sectional study was carried out at four hospitals in Saudi Arabia. Physicians and nurses were invited to participate in an online survey addressing their contact with adolescent patients, and training, knowledge, and attitudes towards adolescent health-care.
Results: A total of 232 professionals participated. The majority (82.3%) reported sometimes or always coming into contact with adolescent patients. Less than half (44%), however, had received any sort of training on adolescent health during their undergraduate or postgraduate education, and only 53.9% reported having adequate knowledge about the health-care needs of adolescents. Nurses perceived themselves as having more knowledge in the health-care needs of adolescents and reported feeling more comfortable in communicating with adolescents as compared with physicians. The majority of participants were interested in gaining further skills and knowledge in adolescent health-care and agreed or strongly agreed that adolescents have specific health-care needs that are different than children or adults (82.3% and 84.0%, respectively). With respect to health services, the majority (85.8%) believed that adolescents should be hospitalized in adolescent-specific wards. Only 26.7% of health-care providers believed that patients should be transferred from child to adult health-care services at 12–13 years of age, as is currently practiced in the country.
Conclusion: A gap exists between the training, knowledge and skills of health-care providers, and the needs to address health-care issues of adolescents in Saudi Arabia. This coupled with the fact that health-care providers are interested in gaining more knowledge and skills and are supportive of changes in the health-care system provides an opportunity for building local capacity and instituting medical and nursing education and health-care reform that can better serve the needs of the country’s young population.
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