The Three Main Objectives of Well-Child/Teen Exams
Most young adults are ready to transition out of a pediatric office and into an adult clinical practice near the age range of 18-20 years. It is a very sad day for us but an important milestone for these men and women who we have watched grow year after year. By the time they transition we will have at least seen them for almost 30 different wellness visits through the years including those check-ups near their birth. Not to mention any times they have been ill or with other concerns.
Well-child or Adolescent check-ups mainly focus on three categories of a youths life. Their physical health, mental health and safety.
Within the first 24 hours of life pediatricians will examine your baby. This is often the very first time a heart is heard with a stethoscope, eyes are seen with an ophthalmoscope and the entire body of the newborn is checked for signs of a healthy transition from inside the womb to the world. At each subsequent visit we repeat this process over and over again observing for any abnormalities and hoping for continual healthy growth and development. As the children age, they are engaged in their own check-ups and educated on ways to keep their physical body in good health. At Thrive Pediatrics we have expectations for these children to do all they can to appropriately care for their body. We ask them about sleep. We ask them about what they eat. We even join our dental friends and check in on their teeth. If your child has not left our office with at least one simple task to improve in the care of their body, then we have not done our job.
We conduct our very first official mental screen at 4 months of age. How can we do that? How can a pediatrician assess if a 4-month-old is depressed or anxious? The screen is actually for the parent. It is important to screen maternal mental health for postpartum depression. We subsequently conduct official developmental and parental mental health and safety screens at 9 months, 18 months and 24 months. These include screens for Autism Spectrum Disorder. As children near puberty we begin regular screenings for depression starting at age 11 and older. Yours and your child’s mental health are as important as their physical health and a high priority at every check-up. In fact, listed above are the ages where we conduct screens with approved screening tools for these conditions. The reality is that we are using our experience and skills to assess the mental and developmental health of your children at every single visit.
According the the CDC, “Unintentional injuries—such as those caused by burns, drowning, falls, poisoning and road traffic—are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children in the United States. Each year, among those 0 to 19 years of age, more than 12,000 people die from unintentional injuries and more than 9.2 million are treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries.” https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/child_injury_data.html. These statistics highlight the last but not the least of the three priorities during a well-child check; safety. We emphasize topics like helmets, swimming lessons, smoke exposure and safety in homes with firearms. As children age into adolescence and as they are comfortable we conduct confidential interviews with them regarding their safety in relationships, at home and at school or in the work place. We then do our duty to remind them of ways to remain safe in their various activities.
Wellness exams are essential to your child’s overall health. I often explain to the children that they know their mind and body better than anyone else in the room, however, we have been trained and practicing for several years, including examining 1000s of children, on how to recognize when something is not right. The only way we can do this is via regular well-child and adolescent checks. We are Thrive Pediatrics, caring for Idaho’s future today.