Well-Child Visits are Still Essential

November 5, 2020 // Heavyn Jennings

In March, COVID-19 sent a shockwave throughout the United States. Schools and childcare facilities began to close. Families started to quarantine. Amid the pandemic, parents and caregivers started going to the doctor less often and stopped taking their children to the doctor as well. This means children are missing out on their well-child visits.

The decline in visits was noticed throughout March 2020 and has continued. In April 2020, there was a 62% relative decline in visits to the pediatrician compared to March 2020. In May, the relative decline in pediatrician visits was 42% compared to March 2020. The number of doctor visits has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, but parents have started taking their children in for visits a bit more compared to the beginning of the pandemic. Hopefully, this positive trend will continue because well-child visits are necessary to ensure proper growth and development.

Well-child visits are a time for doctors to make sure children are progressing well physically, mentally, and emotionally. Children most notably receive their vaccines at well-child visits. In April 2020, Tennessee’s vaccination rate was 39% lower than it was in April 2019. This means a little over a third of children who were getting their vaccines last year are not getting them this year. Without their necessary vaccinations, children will be susceptible to several preventable illnesses. Well-child visits are an important part of keeping children safe and healthy during this time.

These visits are a place where any signs of abuse and/or neglect can be assessed. Without school and well-child visits, many children may fall through the crack. When separated by age group, preschool-age and school-age children had the largest declines in visits from March to April. These children would normally have teachers and childcare providers available to identify behavioral issues or signs of abuse/neglect. With many schools closed, the pediatrician is one of the few adults outside of the home who can detect these issues. Skipping visits to the pediatrician leaves many children vulnerable.

In addition to the physical and mental support provided at these visits, pediatricians can also be a source of information. They provide advice and guidance to parents and children on how to handle this pandemic, which has caused anxiety and fear for both adults and children. Well-child visits are a place where children can get their questions answered accurately and get advice on how to ease their worries about the pandemic. This could be especially crucial if parents are having a hard time talking with their children about what is going on.

Well-child visits serve many purposes and are vital to ensuring children remain healthy throughout their childhood. During this pandemic, they are especially important as a preventative measure for any physical, mental, or environmental health risks. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to keep visiting their pediatrician for well-child visits whether in person or virtually.