The importance of well-child visits as a part of our front door campaign

Child Health, Primary Care | 24 days ago

Well-Child Check Now, Well Child Later

If your child is behind on their well-child visits, you're not alone. But vaccines are more readily available than everso now is the perfect time to get them back on track and ensure proper monitoring of all aspects of their physical and mental health.

You wake your child up one morning and immediately notice something is off. Your child is coughing, their nose won’t stop running and they have a bit of a fever. Without hesitation, you pick up the phone to call their pediatrician for an appointment. 

But when your child isn’t sick, you may not think bringing them in to the pediatrician is necessary. Preventive care in children, particularly in the form of well-child visits, could identify key risk factors that could lead to poorer health and literacy in children. 

Pediatricians across the country are seeing an alarming trend – parents and children missing or delaying these well-child visits, an issue that has been amplified since the onset of COVID-19, as parents once feared potential exposure during a visit to the doctor’s office.

“I reassured parents on a daily basis that our pediatric practices were safe then, and they remain safe now,” says Lyn Nuse, MD, senior medical director of pediatric primary care at Atrium Health Levine Children's.

Well-child visits are a crucial aspect of children’s care and delaying these visits could potentially pose a risk for children.

During well-child visits, in addition to monitoring your child’s growth and physical development, pediatricians are screening for multiple conditions that can impact children. “The sooner we can identify a potential problem, the sooner we can start to intervene, and the easier it will be to have a plan in place to support them moving forward,” says Nuse. “Delaying well-child visits and the potential to identify these issues can also delay that care, and we may miss the window of opportunity to help a child reach their potential or recover some of their abilities.”

What’s a Well-Child Visit Anyway? 

At Levine Children’s, we recommend a series of well-child visits starting just days after a newborn comes home from the hospital. In infants, there may be a couple of well visits in the first month, changing to every two months from 2 to 6 months of age, then spreading out to every three months from 9 to 18 months of age, every six months and eventually to once a year by the time a child is 3 years old. 

“Well-child visits are an opportunity to look at the whole child from both a physical and mental health perspective as well as growth and development perspective,” says Nuse.

It’s more inclusive than the annual physical exam that many adults may get. 

“We really want to be able to dedicate our focus to identifying risk factors and potential conditions that may impact a child’s health, not just now but in the future,” says Nuse. 

That includes paying specific attention to how newborns and young children are growing, from gaining weight properly, to growing in height and their head circumference because all these things can be signs of a child’s overall state of health. Additionally, families complete several screening tools which tell their pediatrician how a child is developing different skills for their age, and during the entire visit the pediatrician will observe your child in addition to the formal physical exam. 

Pediatricians are looking out for the entire family as well. They’re looking for things such as maternal depression with young infants because mom’s health is incredibly important to the child’s health. 

“A lot of what we do also takes into consideration how things are going for the family as a whole,” says Nuse.

More Than Just Vaccines

Many parents think of well-child visits as a way to keep them on a vaccination schedule. This is true, to a point, but these regular well-child visits also give pediatricians an opportunity to observe your child’s overall physical and mental health well beyond vaccinations, with far reaching implications. “Wellness care for your child is just as important as getting them care when they’re sick,” says Nuse. “It’s an important part of their daily lives.”

Some of the screenings conducted in early childhood well-visits include looking for social determinants of health – how a family is doing and if there are things going on that we may be able to help with that will also help the child grow and develop as healthy as possible to reach their full potential.

As children grow, well-child visits will also screen for developmental issues including autism as well as how older children are adjusting at school, from their ability to pay attention to learning to read. Pediatricians will also look at the risk behaviors of older children and teenagers, screening for things like drug and alcohol use, sexual activity and depression and anxiety. 

“All of these things are vital to knowing how a child is doing from an overall health standpoint,” says Nuse says. It’s not something we really have an opportunity to talk about when they’re coming in for an illness.” 

Schedule Your Children’s Next Visit Today

Even if it’s been a while since you’ve been to one of our Levine Children’s pediatric primary care practices, Nuse says, We’re here and would love to see you.”

Contact your child’s pediatrician to schedule a well-child visit or find a pediatrician here. Learn more about pediatric primary care services at Levine Children's here.