Checkups: Your Child Needs a Well-Child Checkup
By Walt Larimore, M.D.
What is learned in the cradle lasts to the grave.
The home is a child's most important classroom for good health. Our children are designed to look to us as models for thoughts, values, and behavior. So parents who model highly healthy preventive health care are more likely to have highly healthy children.
Ensuring good health for our children requires more than good modeling, however. Parents also need to be intentional about good health maintenance and prevention. There are specific things we need to do for our children's health, things we need to teach our children about health, and things we need to monitor in order to keep our children healthy. There are major steps you can take to prevent physical health problems for your children.
Regular well-child checkups are one of the most important ways to give your child a healthy start. A well-child checkup is simply a visit to a child's doctor when the child is not sick. Well-child checkups are important because a healthy start during the formative years affects a child's entire life. Well-child visits within the child's first year are particularly important because infants undergo substantial changes in cognitive abilities, physical growth, motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and social and emotional growth.
Very young children need regular checkups so their growth and development can be measured and to ensure that they receive immunizations on schedule. Early and periodic screenings, as well as diagnostic tests, are essential to a comprehensive health care program that seeks to prevent illness and disease. During each visit, your child's doctor should review your child's complete health and developmental histories and conduct a comprehensive physical exam. (Fortunately, most Medicaid and insurance programs now cover the cost of these checkups.) Immunizations or lab work may also be needed.
One of the most valuable parts of the visit is the opportunity you have to ask questions about your child's health. It's always a good idea to write down your questions prior to your appointment so you don't forget them.
Many studies support my recommendation that children receive six well-child visits during the first year of life.
FIRST YEAR: 2 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months
SECOND YEAR: 15 months, 18 months, 2 years
AGES 3-5: 3 years, 4 years, 5 years
AGES 6-8: at least once but preferably yearly
AGES 8-11: at least once but preferably yearly
I cannot overemphasize the importance of well-child care. Research shows that many children in the United States do not receive the minimum recommended number of preventive health care visits. In fact, an American Academy of Pediatrics survey showed that more than 23 percent of children did not receive the recommended number of well-child visits during the year prior to the survey. Most doctors who care for children can recount dozens of instances when preventive exams allowed them to discover serious problems during very early stages.
What a Well-Child Visit Should Include
*Height and weight evaluation (with Body Mass Index calculation for age two years and up)
*Age-appropriate developmental screening
*Vision and hearing screenings
*Checking of vital signs, including blood pressure (three years and up)
*Laboratory procedures such as urinalysis, tuberculin (TB) skin test, and lead screening (at some visits)
*Advice about preventive measures
Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.
Taken with permission from Walt Larimore, M.D. with Stephen & Amanda Sorenson, God's Design for the Highly Healthy Child (Zondervan).
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