When your mother said an apple a day keeps the doctor away, she had more insight into primary care medicine than you ever thought. Being prepared is key. One of the most beneficial things any parent can do is make sure their child has a yearly preventive health care visit. However, the next time you visit your health care provider, do not be shocked if a few more questions or even more blood work occurs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released online today its new preventive health care recommendations for children. The report outlines evidence-based screenings and assessments that should be addressed at well-child visits.

Below are a few highlights and why they are so important:

  • Children ages 11 to 21 years should be screened for depression. Sadly, suicide is now a leading cause of death among adolescents.  Many adolescents hide this problem from their parents and friends until it is too late. It is important to catch signs and symptoms early, so that interventions can occur as soon as possible and we can combat this growing problem.
  • Children ages 6 months though 5 years may receive a fluoride varnish. Dental cavities are one of the top chronic diseases that affect young children. Fluoride helps prevent this. Depending on your area, water supply, and frequency of dental appointments, your child may receive a fluoride varnish at their next visit.
  • Children ages 9 to 11 years should be screened for dyslipidemia, or abnormally elevated cholesterol or fats (lipids) in the blood. Childhood obesity continues to increase and is an epidemic in the United States. This screen will help practitioners discover issues early and hopefully improve your child's overall health.
  • Adolescents 16 to 18 years should be screened for HIV infection. Federal statistics show that one in four new HIV infections occur in ages 13 to 24 years old.  More concerning, is that 60 percent of all youth with HIV do not even know they are infected.  To help improve this growing problem, your health care provider can screen for this disease as well as educate on safe sex practices.

These preventive screenings should not alarm you. Also, remember that during the visit, you may be asked to leave the room, not because your opinion is not valued, but it often allows your child to speak more freely about private issues. These questions and screens can seem odd or personal in nature, but they have your children's health at their core. Your health care provider will work with you and your child to provide them the best care possible.

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