Getting Kids Caught Up On Routine Doctor Visits: Why It Matters

Pediatrician doctor examining child

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, many of us have avoided leaving our homes to do anything that seems non-essential. For this reason, many children are now behind on their regularly scheduled health check-ups. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that all children see their doctor for their routine well visits and routine vaccinations.

Even if your child is not sick, you should make it a priority to keep these appointments. Preventive care for kids can help ensure they stay healthy. Best of all, if your children have health insurance coverage through Independence Blue Cross (Independence), such as the Keystone HMO Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plan, their well-child visits are covered at no cost!

Here are three benefits of well-child visits:

  1. Discuss concerns. These visits are an ideal time to talk to your child’s doctor about any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s physical health, development, or behavior.
  2. Get immunizations. Vaccines give children the protection they need to be healthy and help prevent illness. Be sure to follow the recommended immunization schedule for children.
  3. Track growth and development. At these visits, you will learn how much your child has grown in the time since your last visit. The doctor will also observe your child to determine if they meet typical developmental milestones for their age.
  4. Check for COVID-19’s impact. Pandemic isolation has negatively affected many young people’s behavior and mood. The doctor may assess your child to make sure they are okay, and suggest resources and solutions if appropriate.

Developmental Screenings

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends developmental screenings for little ones during their well-visits at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months (or whenever there is a concern).

Developmental screenings typically involve completing a questionnaire about your child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions.

Here are some questions that your child’s doctor may ask you as part of their development screenings:

9-month well-child visit

  • Does your baby make two similar sounds like ba-bada-da, or ga-ga?
  • Does your baby pass a toy back and forth from one hand to the other?
  • Does your baby drink water, juice, or formula from a cup while you hold it?

18-months well-child visit

  • Does your child say eight or more words in addition to Mama and Dada?
  • Does your child stack a small block or toy on top of another one?
  • Does your child play with a doll or stuffed animal by hugging it?

24-months well-child visit

  • If you point to a picture of a ball (kitty, cup, hat, etc.) and ask your child, What is this?, does your child correctly name at least one picture?
  • Does your child jump with both feet leaving the floor at the same time?
  • Does your child copy the activities you do, such as wipe up a spill, sweep, shave, or comb hair?

Early Intervention Works

While all children develop at their own pace, these screenings look for milestones and can help identify developmental delays or issues. Sometimes, the only sign of a disease starting is poor growth in height and weight, frequently not noticed by those who live with the child.

Developmental delays or behavioral problems that can be identified by screening include learning disabilities, speech or language problems, autism, intellectual disability, emotional/behavioral conditions, hearing or vision impairment, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

With as many as one in four children at risk for developmental delays, these screenings are an important tool to help identify delays early, allowing time for appropriate intervention and treatment (preferably before a child enters pre-school).

While developmental screenings usually occur at well-child visits, you should bring up any issues or concerns as soon as you think there’s a problem. If you think your child is falling behind in emotional, mental, or physical growth, talk to your child’s doctor right away.

Lead Exposure

There are many reasons a child may have growth problems and developmental delays. Did you know lead poisoning could be one of them?

Lead is a dangerous toxin, especially for young children, because of their small size and rapid growth and development. One common way children can be exposed to lead is from house dust or soil contaminated by lead paint. Young children may also put their hands and objects with lead dust into their mouths. Lead can also enter drinking water in older homes that have plumbing materials containing lead. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.

There are many areas in our region where children have an increased risk for lead exposure. Children living in and near former industrial and mining areas, and children spending time in older houses (built before 1960), have the greatest risk of exposure to lead. Children may also be exposed through other items that may not seem dangerous, like imported candies, cosmetics, pottery, and some home remedies.

Effects of Lead

Most children with lead in their blood have no symptoms. Lead poisoning can cause symptoms such as anemia, fatigue, irritability, poor sleep habits, stomach pain, vomiting, and weight loss. Exposure to even small amounts of lead can result in learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and attention deficit disorder (ADD).

If the blood test is positive for lead, your child’s doctor can provide information on how to lower the level, get your child treated if the level is high, and provide information on protecting your child from lead exposure.

If your child is covered by Independence, such as through the Keystone HMO CHIP plan, look for important information in the mail and by phone about getting your child tested for lead.

Independence Has Your Child Covered

To help ensure your child stays safe and healthy, be sure to follow the AAP’s schedule for routine well-child visits.

Independence health plans provide coverage for well-child visits, developmental screenings, immunizations, and more! To learn more about benefits for enrolled dependents, call the number on the back of your child’s member ID card.

Do you have a concern or complaint about accessing timely care from your child’s health care provider? Call our Member Help Team at the number listed on the back of your child’s ID card and ask to file a quality-of-care complaint.

Dr. Lynn Collins

About Dr. Lynn Collins

I am a Pediatric Medical Director at Independence Blue Cross. In my current role, I am responsible for utilization review, policy review, and addressing any concerns regarding Pediatrics. I received my medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine, and I am board certified in Pediatrics.