Silja Kosola

Adolescents should not be marginalized in research

Dosentti Silja Kosola, kuva: Mikael Ahlfors/Keksi
photo: Mikael Ahlfors/Keksi

Silja Kosola, the first Nordic docent in adolescent medicine, studies the transition of adolescent patients from children’s hospital to adults’ treatment units. Her team also examines the significance of health checks conducted by school doctors, and school doctors’ approach to school absenteeism. 

Silja Kosola’s research team collaborates with researchers from many different fields, such as various medical specialists as well as specialists in nursing science and social sciences.

– We believe that collaborative research builds a common understanding of the needs of adolescents in health care and, thus, benefits adolescent patients, says Silja Kosola.

The main research topic of the team is the transition of adolescent patients from children’s hospital to adults’ treatment units. Kosola became fascinated with the subject during her doctoral thesis, which she wrote when participating in Professor Pakarinen’s research team.

– While studying the long-term outcomes of pediatric liver transplantation, I noticed that the transition phase has been challenging everywhere and that there is a need for essential research data on the topic.

Good transitional care is currently one of the key topics of interest in adolescent medicine and the subject of the Bridge over troubled water study carried out in collaboration by two parties: the New Children’s Hospital and the Pediatric Research Center in Helsinki and the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Centre for Adolescent Health in Melbourne. In Melbourne, research is led by Professor Susan Sawyer.

The 253 Finnish participants have now been recruited, but in Australia recruitment continues. The adolescents will be monitored for three years, and data will be collected annually from the adolescents themselves and from patient records. Data will also be gathered on the costs of care. The aim is to publish the research protocol this year.

Practical research to support health care

The research team will also study the significance of health checks conducted by school doctors and the role of school doctors in addressing school absenteeism.

Research has significantly improved treatment results in many pediatric diseases. Kosola’s research team is looking for answers to very practical questions. How to maintain the treatment results as the patients reach adulthood? Which has a bigger effect on the transition: the severity of illness or a sense of self-efficacy? What kind of support do young patients need to cope?

– We aim to provide research data to support the health care system. Adolescents have been marginalized for too long: they have a greater need for autonomy than children, but they cannot take full responsibility for their treatment in the same ways as adults.

Kosola began assembling her research team after returning from her post doc research stay at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in 2016. The project received a significant boost in 2019, when the Finnish Medical Foundation awarded Kosola a large grant for setting up a research team.

Contact information:

Docent Silja Kosola
silja.kosola (a) helsinki.fi