Preventive Health Care Visits
The Bright Futures guidelines for health supervision of infants, children, and adolescents recommend that children visit a physician six times during the first year of life, three times in the second year, and annually thereafter for preventive health care (or “wellchild”) visits.1 An annual preventive health care visit provides an opportunity to monitor a child's growth, to assess his or her development and behavior, to provide appropriate immunizations, to discuss important issues such as nutrition and prevention of injury and violence, and to answer parents' questions about their children's health and care. These visits are perhaps more important for children with special health care needs, who may have more health risks and need ongoing monitoring of chronic health conditions.
The data show that CSHCN are somewhat more likely than children without special needs to receive at least one preventive health care visit in a year, even after statistical adjustment for other differences between CSHCN and non-CSHCN. Of CSHCN, 91.4 percent were reported to have had an annual visit, compared to 87.8 percent of non-CSHCN. These percentages have increased since 2003, when 86.5 percent of CSHCN and 75.9 percent of non-CSHCN had at least one preventive health care visit. Across states, the percentage of CSHCN with at least one preventive visit ranged from 80.5 percent to 97.6 percent. Among both children with and without special health care needs, the likelihood of an annual visit is highest among the youngest children and lowest among adolescents. Whether or not they have special health care needs, fewer than three-quarters of uninsured children receive an annual preventive health visit.
1 Hagan JF, Shaw JS, Duncan PM, eds. Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. Third edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. 2008.