One in three teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been physically hurt by their dating partner. Lani Ramos, a crisis counselor in the domestic violence division of the Metro Nashville Police Department, joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss the warning signs of teen dating violence and how you can help a teen in a dangerous relationship. View her segment here.

In the U.S., one in four women and one in 10 men will experience domestic abuse before the age of 18. There are many causes for this epidemic, but Ramos believes that teen domestic violence is largely due to the inexperience, volatile emotions and lack of conflict management skills of young people.
If a teen in your life is experiencing an abusive relationship, the warning signs can manifest themselves physically and emotionally. Abused teens may isolate themselves or frequently allow their partner to make decisions for them. Also, they may have visible bruises on their body or other signs of trauma.
Teen dating violence can be hard to identify and often goes unreported. Some warning signs include:

  • Embarrassing their partner with bad names and put downs
  • Controlling what they do and who they see
  • Calling or texting their partner constantly
  • Taking their money or making them ask for money
  • Telling them they’re a bad person
  • Destroying their property
  • Shoving, slapping or hitting their partner

And, teen dating violence is not only destructive at the time of abuse, but there are also many long-lasting effects. It increases the likelihood of:

  • Abusing alcohol and/or drugs
  • Developing an eating disorder
  • Losing self-confidence
  • Declining of relationships with family or friends
  • Considering or attempting suicide
  • Engaging in risky sexual behavior and/or becoming pregnant

If you suspect a teen in your life is in danger, Love Is Respect offers trained peer advocates to support teens and young adults 24/7 by phone, text or online chat. All conversations are free and confidential. Learn more or chat online at, call 866-441-9479, or text “loveis” to 22522.

Child Sexual Abuse

Did you know teaching children about sexual abuse is the best way to keep them safe? Sue Fort White and Jill Howlett from Our Kids joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss the difficult but important topic of child sexual abuse. View their segment here.

By the age of 18, one in four girls and one in seven boys will experience some form of sexual abuse. That’s why it’s essential to teach touching safety at a young age. When caring adults teach bike, water and street safety, kids don’t become fearful of bicycles, pools and crosswalks. Touching safety can be taught in the same matter-of-fact way. For resources and tips on how to breach the subject with your children, visit or call 615-341-4911.

Our Kids provides medical evaluations and crisis counseling in response to child sexual abuse. Most of their referrals come from the Department of Children’s Services, law enforcement or medical providers, but there doesn’t need to be a referral or open investigation to come to them for assistance.

If you think a child is being sexually abused, follow these important steps:

  • Listen to the child
  • Believe and support the child
  • Stay calm and don’t overact
  • Take action

If you ever suspect a child is being abused, adults are obligated to report it to the Department of Children’s Services at 877-234-0004.





Does your child have health-related expenses not covered, or not fully covered, by your family’s commercial insurance plan?  UnitedHealthcare’s Dr. Karen Cassidy joined us on a recent episode of Community Healthy Matters to discuss how the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation can possibly help. View her segment here.

The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides medical grants to help pay for medical treatment, services or equipment such as surgeries, counseling, prescription medications, wheelchairs, orthotics, eyeglasses, hearing aids and physical, occupational and speech therapies. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Foundation has awarded more than 12,000 grants valued at more than $34 million to children and their families across the U.S.

Families can apply for grants for children covered by any commercial health insurance plan – not just UnitedHealthcare members. Families on TennCare or other government safety net programs, however, are not eligible as this program is designed specifically as a bridge to help families with commercial insurance that still have financial constraints, excessive out-of-pocket expenses or high deductibles.

To qualify for the grant, your child must be:

  • 16 or younger
  • Living in the U.S.,
  • Covered by a commercial insurance plan
  • Facing a health-related challenge

There are also income criteria and certain documents that are needed for an application. The application process is fully outlined on the Foundation website at

The size of the grant varies based on the child and his or her needs, and what their commercial insurance does and doesn’t cover. There’s a lifetime limit of $10,000 per child.

Among the many success stories in Tennessee, a local boy from Wilson County received a grant at age 7 to help with expenses related to surgeries to repair his cleft palette and improve his speech. Due to his positive experience, he now wants to be a doctor when he grows up so he can help other kids and families.

Think UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation may be exactly what your family needs? Learn more at

Youth Substance Abuse

Conversations are among the most powerful tools parents can use to protect their kids. But, tackling a topic like drugs or alcohol is difficult. Reginia Guess, a student assistance program counselor with Students Taking a Right Stand (STARS), joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss how the organization works to prevent youth substance abuse. View her interview here.

STARS is an evidence-based program to address social and emotional barriers for youth. Counselors work on-site in schools in six middle Tennessee counties throughout the school year to provide education, early intervention and counseling, and to help link students and families to services in the community. And, there are no fees associated with program services!
Youth who need help may seek it out for themselves, or they may be identified as being at risk by school administrators, teachers, peers, family members or guardians. Warning signs that a youth may be abusing substances include:

  • Unexplained changes in personality, attitude or appearance
  • Sudden mood changes, anger, agitation
  • Skipping classes, declining grades, getting in trouble at school
  • Acting isolated or withdrawn
  • Missing money, valuables or prescription drugs from the home

These problems can accumulate due to anxiety, self-regulation of emotions, the availability of prescription drugs in the home, peer pressure and more.

STARS combats these issues by building on the strengths of the child and family, promoting protective factors, fostering resilience and reducing risk factors. As a visible presence in schools, STARS counselors form collaborate relationships with school counselors and administrators. The typical positive outcomes of students in the program include increased attendance, improved grades, greater attachment to the community and a general step towards a healthier life.
To contact a STARS counselor, visit or call 615-279-0058. If you are concerned for your child, you may also call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE or access its parent toolkit at

Childhood Bullying

160,000 children miss some school every day because they are frightened or intimidated by other students. By understanding the signs and symptoms of bullying, you can help your child implement best practices in bullying prevention for themselves and their peers. Eric Johnson, vice president of youth development of STARS Nashville, joined us on a recent episode of Community Healthy Matters to discuss bullying. View his interview here.

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and decreased academic achievement. They are also more likely to miss, skip or drop out of school.

With the rise of social media, cyber bullying has become a very serious issue, allowing kids to instantly and anonymously cause harm to other children. Cyber bullying suicides account for 4,400 annual deaths in teens and younger children, according to the CDC.

Unfortunately, bullied children are often too embarrassed or frightened to seek help. Statistics from the 2012 Indicators of School Crime and Safety show that an adult was notified in less than half of bullying incidents.

Some warning signs that could indicate a bullying problem are:

  • Unexplainable injuries or bruises
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry
  • Frequently faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide

Seeking to fight against this bullying epidemic, the MOVE-2-STAND program at Stars Nashville is designed to help students recognize the harmful effects of bullying and harassment. The interactive one-day youth summit creates empathy and helps young leaders understand how bullying impacts school climate and communities.

A large part of the program focuses on the responsibility of bystanders to physically step in and protect the child being bullied. Bullying isolates a person. MOVE-2-STAND suggests that bystanders can support the bullied child by speaking to them, giving them a compliment or including them in a social activity.

If your child is the one being bullied, MOVE-2-STAND says they should be assertive and tell the bully to stop. Then, they should tell an adult like a teacher, principal or parent.

For more information about how to prevent bullying, visit and

Pediatrician Dr. Deanna Bell & UnitedHealthcare’s Dr. Joel Bradley share how to optimize your child’s health checkups.

Did you know that children should have 12 checkups before the age of three? Establishing a positive relationship with healthcare professionals and diagnosing any medical problems at an early age is essential to raising a healthy child. Dr. Joel Bradley, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare in Tennessee, and Dr. Vaughn Frigon, chief medical officer of TennCare, joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss critical healthcare information for low-income Tennesseans about how TennCare Kids is working to meet their needs. View their entire interview here.

One of the oldest Medicaid managed care programs in the country, TennCare provides health care for approximately 1.4 million Tennesseans, or 25 percent of the state’s population. Approximately two-thirds of those TennCare serves are children.

TennCare Kids is the early and periodic screening, diagnostic and treatment program for children who are enrolled in TennCare. Starting at birth until age 21, it provides a spectrum of care including health screenings, medical and dental checkups and other health care services for children, according to guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

TennCare Kids “well child” screenings are free and include:

  • Health history
  • Complete physical exam
  • Appropriate immunizations
  • Laboratory tests (as needed)
  • Vision/hearing screening
  • Developmental/behavioral screening
  • Health education

The key to treating adolescent health issues is early diagnosis. TennCare Kids’ goal is to treat any problems before they become lifelong disabilities. Screenings should start within the first week of life and infants should have 12 checkups before their third birthday. Children age three through 20 should have one medical screening every year and a dental checkup every six months.

These regular visits to a primary care provider or local health department will build a relationship that sets the groundwork for your child to manage their own care throughout their life. If starting out at a new practice, take any medical records that you have, including immunization records and family history.

To learn more about keeping your child healthy, visit And if you’re not in TennCare but think your child might be eligible or have questions, contact or call 1.800.318.2596.

TennCare Kids

Representatives from UnitedHealthcare and TennCare explain TennCare Kids, a free child health services program, on the latest episode of Community Health Matters.

Tune in to hear from experts on how to keep your child healthy. Representatives from UnitedHealthcare and TennCare explain TennCare Kids, a free child health services program, on the latest episode of Community Health Matters. Pediatrician Dr. Deanna Bell & UnitedHealthcare’s Dr. Joel Bradley share how to optimize your child’s health checkups. And dietician Mckel Hill stopped by to discuss how to help kids make healthy food choices.