Is your child’s regular doctor’s office visit coming up? If so, you may notice some changes during his or her appointment.
Many of these changes are designed to ensure that children are receiving preventive care.
“As physicians, our goal is to help guide children to make choices to positively impact their health not just today, but into adulthood,” said Dr. Nneka Holder, an adolescent medicine specialist. “The earlier we catch certain health conditions the sooner we can start a treatment strategy.”
Below, Dr. Holder explains some of the reasoning behind the changes, along with how these updates may affect your child’s visit.
Cholesterol screening between ages 9 and 11
“With the growing challenge America is facing when it comes to obesity, there are some concerns about children with abnormal cholesterol levels,” said Dr. Holder.
Through cholesterol screening, healthcare providers can catch potential problems early.
“The best way to treat high cholesterol at this age is diet and exercise,” Dr. Holder said. “Previously, the AAP recommendations for cholesterol tests were only for children who had a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol.”
Screening to assess adolescents’ drug and alcohol use
“Don’t be surprised if your teen’s healthcare providers ask some sensitive questions about substance abuse,” said Dr. Holder.
The physician may ask parents to leave the room during the discussion so teens feel able to talk freely about the topic.
“As physicians, we can be an ally, along with parents, to reinforce the message to avoid these substances,” Dr. Holder said.
Screening for depression at ages 11 through 21
Among teens, the leading causes of death are accidents, homicide and suicide. By screening adolescents for signs of emotional distress, physicians can offer coping strategies, as well as consider other treatment options. Dr. Holder noted that parents should also expect this conversation to take place privately between the physician and the child.
Screening for HIV for teens ages 16-18
Healthcare providers will use questions to assess teens’ HIV risk. For those teens who are at risk of being exposed to HIV, physicians can give them an HIV test with an oral swab or a blood test.
Screening for cervical dysplasia pushed back to age 21
Screening for cervical dysplasia, which is abnormalities in cervix cells that can lead to cervical cancer, involves a pelvic exam and a pap smear.
“Most women don’t get diagnosed with cervical cancer before the age of 20,” said Dr. Holder. “Also, there are now effective vaccines available for children that can be given starting at age 11.”