In 2011, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommended universal cholesterol screening for adolescents and young adults ages 17–21 years. This recommendation is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is meant to detect abnormal cholesterol levels that could lead to problems many years in the future, like heart attacks and strokes. The recommendation is predicated on the premise that teens will actually want to do something about an abnormal result — like change their diet or exercise habits or take a cholesterol-lowering medication. But will they?
As clinicians and researchers in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and the Department of Cardiology’s Preventive Cardiology Program, we sought to answer this question by going straight to the source — teens and young adults between the ages of 17-21 years. As part of a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute award, we teamed up with a variety of stakeholders who care about heart health and cholesterol screening in youth — teens, parents, pediatricians, nurse practitioners and researchers in the field. Working with this panel of stakeholders, we devised a set of hypothetical cholesterol-screening scenarios and presented them to 37 youth at different levels of risk for cholesterol problems, as well as 35 parents of youth in this age range. We asked them how they would feel if they or their child received a very high, moderately high or reassuring cholesterol test and then explored their thoughts and feelings further in an in-depth interview. Our results were recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. …Read More