Breaking Down Barriers: Health & Wellness For All
By: Carolyn Mish, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Olivia Storti, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
In honor of Teen Health 101’s first anniversary, I’d like to take a step back and discuss the impact TH101 has had on me. While most of my articles are written objectively—I discuss research and how it applies to the topic at hand, linking it to how our readers can utilize that information in their own lives — I do maintain my ability to candidly share how Teen Health 101 has helped me, both as a consumer and creator of its content.
I joined Teen Health 101 in August of 2020, during a surge of COVID-19 cases in my country. I’d been sheltering in place for nearly six months at that point, and hadn’t seen my friends in much longer than that. My family and I took (and continue to take) the pandemic very seriously. My younger sister has asthma, and we knew that regardless of the infection rate in children, she’d struggle if infected with COVID. Where I once was interested in medicine and science out of pure curiosity, I was now interested out of necessity. I researched relentlessly - I learned how COVID enters the body, which spike proteins attach to respiratory receptors and how they duplicate and invade the immune system. These concepts were always interesting to me, and I remember learning about mRNA and viral DNA in my freshman biology class. The diagrams used to illustrate them didn’t jump off the page, but the staggering number of cases in the United States did. I learned to teach myself about what was going on in my county, my state, and my country, so that maybe I could help other people, too.
I wrote about other topics, too. I wrote about public health, the flu vaccine, and nutrition. I wrote about neuroscience, breaking large concepts down into digestible pieces. I sifted through dozens of research papers to reach conclusions and translate results. The common theme in many of my articles is this breakdown. This understanding—the ability to link the tiny molecular happenings in our bodies to how we feel, act, and think—is at the heart of science education. It’s at the heart of Teen Health 101, and it’s at the heart of why I love what I do. So much of science is gatekept by archaic practices; research is hidden behind academic paywalls, answers are concealed within academia. For young people who want to learn about their health and wellness, this is unacceptable. Breaking down these barriers and providing resources for people to educate themselves and make informed choices about their health is vital to a healthier and happier generation.
Teen Health 101 doesn’t just provide teenagers with informational articles. By diversifying the content and media around such a specific topic—youth wellness and health—we create a plethora of ways for young people to become involved and engaged in health-related topics. Media and exposure is vital to destigmatizing topics that are often left out in most conversations, including mental health, reproductive health, and sexual health. Gone are the days of reading vague pamphlets in your doctor’s office. As times change, the spread of public health information has to change with it. By shedding light on these topics and incorporating social media into these discussions, hopefully teenagers will feel empowered and in charge of their own wellness.
Additionally, Teen Health 101 is a great resource for teens who are considering entering the field of medicine and healthcare. This may seem daunting; entering the workforce is stressful for anyone, and at times it can feel isolating to consider becoming a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional. Personally, the amount of information online discouraging people from entering medicine and STEM in college and graduate school was very disheartening. It can feel overwhelming to sift through article after article and wonder which job is the perfect fit for you. Teen Health 101’s informational webinars that feature various medical specialties and professions and create a link between prospective students and professionals.
To me, I feel that Teen Health 101’s mission is best described as empowering youth with resources and knowledge about their own wellness. Knowledge is truly power. It takes a great deal of strength and bravery to advocate for yourself within the healthcare system. Knowing how to make your voice heard is vital to receiving the care you deserve. It’s my hope that by creating content centered around youth health and wellness, I provide someone out there with the resources to make their voice heard. It’s not easy. Minorities are at a significant disadvantage within the American healthcare system and systems abroad. For centuries, pain and concerns have been dismissed and ignored due to patients’ identities. It’s up to us to make sure that not only are we heard, but everyone after us is as well.