This is Part 1 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABCs of Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.
Top Three Take-Aways:
- Regular well-child visits help create healthy habits, identify and address concerns early, and build knowledge and trust for future needs.
- Insurance, including Apple Health (Medicaid), covers well-child visits, and resources are available so cost is not a barrier.
- Ideally, children and families should have a medical home – this is a medical provider they regularly see who knows them and their healthcare needs.
What is a well-child visit?
Children learn, grow and develop quickly, building a foundation for the rest of their lives.
Part of a strong foundation is routine health care. Even healthy children need regular check-ups with a medical provider. These visits help to stay on track with healthy habits, detect and address any developmental concerns early, and build knowledge and trust for future healthcare needs.
Well-child visits or check-ups are regular appointments with your child’s healthcare provider. They focus on physical, social, and emotional development. The check-ups are an opportunity to ask questions, talk about your child’s development, and stay current with vaccinations and, if needed, medications.
Your child’s age and health help determine how often their pediatrician or family doctor wants to see them. For example, babies have frequent visits during their first months, but by the time a child reaches school age they likely will be on an annual schedule. According to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, a typical schedule includes five well-child visits during the first year of life, three between 1 and 2 years old, and one annual check-up every year between ages 3 and 20.
Note that these annual visits shouldn’t end in the teen or even early adult years. There are crucial developmental milestones, routine immunizations, and other needs during and after puberty.
Can I afford well-child visits?
Well-child visits are covered by insurance, including Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). If your child does not currently have insurance, you can learn more and sign up online. There are resources to ensure that financial limitations don’t prevent a child from accessing care.
Routine, supportive health care is less costly for individuals and the community than addressing largely preventable medical concerns when they become serious.
Ideally, every child should have what is called a medical home.
What does it mean to have a medical home?
A medical home is a place and a type of care where the patient and the healthcare team (doctors, nurses, etc.) have a long-term, trusting relationship. This means the child sees the same healthcare provider for their well-child visits, and that same provider or another member of that provider’s team when they go in for illness care. It creates a safe space to ask questions and share concerns, and allows the pediatrician or family doctor to have a thorough understanding of the needs and health history of the child, as well as other factors that impact their health such as their family dynamics or child care arrangements. They also may be able to help with resources like Hopelink for transportation to and from appointments, which is an Apple Health benefit.
This type of care also allows for a supportive and open dialogue between the parents or guardians and the child’s doctor. Conversations can start with a baby’s feeding and sleeping habits, learning activities, or how to ease discomfort due to things like diaper rash or teething. Years later, the questions may be about hormonal changes and mental health during puberty. These are examples of where partnerships between families and medical professionals are key.
If you do not currently have a regular doctor for your children, it is not too late to find a medical home. Many insurance plans have online tools to help find covered providers, or you can ask about providers who are accepting new patients at your local clinic or family practice. Many providers will set up an initial visit to get to know you and your child. This is also a chance for you to determine how comfortable you and your child would be in that new medical home.
A good medical home is one where the team is compassionate, non-judgmental and meets patients where they are. They can help direct and refer you to other experts or specialists, as well. You and your child deserve a safe space to ask health and child development questions, and someone you know and trust to help answer them.
Take some time now to check off the “A” in the ABCs of healthy children. Has your child been in for their regular check-up this year? Do they have a medical home?
Annual well-child visits are a key piece in a strong, lifelong foundation of health for your child.