Back to School: An Interview with ACP President Dr. Henry Chen

[avatar user=”hchen” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=””]By: Henry Chen, MD[/avatar]New York City kids are heading back to school, and ACP asked for advice from Dr. Henry Chen, a leading community-based Primary Care Physician who has managed the health care of patients in the Asian communities of Brooklyn and Manhattan for more than 20 years. Dr. Chen also is a co-founder and President of Advocate Community Providers.

What are the health challenges you observe for children in the Asian community? Are there trends you’ve noticed over the years?

Dr. Chen: Children in the Asian community face a challenge in that their parents may be less likely to share their concerns about possible mental health issues, which are seen as embarrassments. For example, a parent may try to increase discipline with a child who is expressing recognizable signs of mental issues, instead of asking a doctor. The trend for this behavior has remained prevalent through the years and continues to be a challenge.

Are there unique cultural challenges when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, for example, exercise or nutrition?

Dr. Chen: Many Asian parents prefer their child to study, and see playtime outdoors as a distraction. In reality, studies have shown that children do better when they have regular opportunities to engage in exercise and play. Additionally, Asian parents tend to prefer more prestigious seeming sports such as tennis or golf. They should give their children the opportunity to try other sports such as basketball or soccer.

As children head back to school, what recommendations do you have (what are their biggest obstacles) for good health?

Dr. Chen: Try to minimize their time spent on the phone as it can interfere with homework and sleep. Avoid junk food. Unhealthy eating habits can become lifelong health problems.

What advice do you give to parents or caretakers to raise a healthy child?

Dr. Chen: Be proactive for their health. Look for problems such as unhealthy eating or lack of regular exercise, and deal with them before the situation worsens and impacts their health.

What questions should parents and caretakers be asking their child’s pediatrician? What should parents be alert to in terms of their child’s health and development?

Dr. Chen: Parents should prepare questions beforehand, especially for their child’s specific health problems. What may seem like a minor concern or issue can point to more serious health conditions that they would not know of.

What are 3-4 things a child should do regularly to stay healthy?

Dr. Chen: Get enough sleep so they wake feeling well rested, outdoor exercise or activity, minimize junk food, and learn to keep up hygiene: to brush their teeth and bathe.

Special advice for children with chronic conditions like asthma?

Dr. Chen: Be sure to check in with your family physician periodically, and tell of any concerns or irregularities, for example, new symptoms or reactions to treatment. Make sure to take prescribed medication or treatment on time. Beware of dusty and unclean environments.

What is the role/responsibility of schools in a child’s health?

Dr. Chen: Schools should provide a safe and welcoming environment for their students. They need to be aware of any bullying and alcohol or drug use, and to resolve the problems as soon as possible, before chronic mental health issues and harmful habits develop.