Well-child visits chance to form relationship with health care provider

By Dr. Colleen Townsend, Partnership HealthPlan of California

Well-child visits are a chance for parents to understand their children’s growth and development and form a relationship with the child’s primary care provider.

These visits give the provider a chance to complete age-appropriate screenings, give preventive health education and review and offer immunizations. In the time of Covid-19 shelter-in-place orders, these visits may seem risky or unnecessary. Due to Covid-19, many children in Solano County missed these vital visits with their health care providers.

Now more than ever, these visits are necessary to make sure your child has the most current health care and to maintain a positive relationship with the medical provider. These visits are essential to ensure children receive the services they need, including immunizations. They are a critical point of access to resources that support the growth of a healthy and balanced child.

For babies and toddlers, well-child visits are scheduled at two- or six-month intervals to support parents to understand the developmental stages that infants experience in this incredible time of growth and change.

Breastfed babies are seen by their pediatric provider within 48 to 72 hours after leaving the hospital, and all babies are to be seen at least once in the first two weeks of life. At these first visits, the parents discuss concerns that may have come up after leaving the hospital, and the pediatrician will weigh the baby, and discuss feeding and sleeping difficulties. These visits are key to make sure families have the contacts and support they need to stay healthy in this challenging period.

In the first two years of life, well-child visits focus on the baby’s growth and development. Providers discuss current activities at home, observe the baby’s activities during the visit and complete a physical examination of the infant. The pediatrician provides parents with education on safety for the baby and on expectations for the next stage of development. Parents are given information about and offered immunizations based on the child’s age and the standard immunization schedule.

After the first two years, well-child visits are scheduled yearly. The visits focus on growth, development and screening for medical conditions. The pediatrician reviews education about healthy eating, activities and the next stages of development. As the child nears preschool and kindergarten, school readiness will also be evaluated. It is important to pay attention and to stay current with the immunizations that are required for preschool and kindergarten. It is best to contact your primary care provider’s office to schedule school physicals now to avoid last-minute requests for an appointment.

Annual well-child visits remain important from grade school through high school. These visits offer screening and build a trusting relationship between the child and their medical provider. In these visits, children learn to ask their own questions about growth, development and healthy habits. In adolescence, the pediatrician may ask to hold part of the visit one-on-one with the child. At this time, the provider can inquire about sensitive topics such as body image, dating, substance use and activities that may be uncomfortable to address with family or caregivers in the room. This gives teenagers a protected space to discuss their questions or concerns with their medical provider.

Well-child visits are routine visits with a primary care provider in which a child’s growth and development are assessed, medical screening exams are completed and education is reviewed to support the health of the child and family. These visits are important to the safety and well-being of infants, young children and teens. Call your provider to schedule well-child visits for this summer.

Colleen Townsend, M.D., is a family physician with the Partnership HealthPlan of California, a partner of Solano Public Health.