CDC Study Finds Too Few Kids Getting Preventive Care

A new study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that millions of kids have not received some critical preventive services. These services include a hearing screening soon after birth, preventive dental care in order to avoid tooth decay and the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer.

Clinical preventive services such as vaccines and blood pressure screenings can detect or prevent disease and other medical conditions in earlier, more treatable stages and significantly reduce the risk of becoming ill, disabled, dying early and expensive medical care.

The CDC report focuses on a review of the use of 11 clinical preventive services and their use among thousands of kids and young adults ages newborn to 21 before or just after implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2012. The ACA includes a requirement that health insurance plans cover many preventive services including the ones in the CDC report, at no cost to patients.

The services reviewed in the CDC report include:

  • Prenatal breastfeeding counseling
  • Newborn hearing  screening and follow-up
  • Developmental screening,
  •  Lead screening
  •  Vision screening
  • Screening for high blood pressure
  • Preventive dental care
  • The HPV vaccine
  • Screening for tobacco use and guidance on quitting
  • Chlamydia screening
  • Reproductive health services

The report’s findings include:

  • In 2009, more than half of children and adolescents did not visit the dentist in the previous year and nearly nine of 10 children and adolescents did not receive a dental sealant or a topical fluoride application in the past year, although both are strongly recommended to prevent tooth decay.
  • Nearly half of girls 13-17 years had not received their recommended first dose of HPV vaccine in 2011 to protect against cervical cancer.
  • About one in three visits to outpatient clinics by adolescents and young adults ages 11-21during 2004-2010 did not include a note to the patient files on tobacco use and 80 percent of those who were positive for tobacco use did not receive guidance on quitting.  

“We must protect the health of all children and ensure that they receive recommended screenings and services. Together, parents and the public health and healthcare communities can work to ensure that children have health insurance and receive vital preventive services,” said Stuart K. Shapira, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer and associate director for science in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Increased use of clinical preventive services could improve the health of infants, children and teens and promote healthy lifestyles that will enable them to achieve their full potential,” said Shapira.

The report also found that uninsured children are not as likely as insured children to receive preventive services and Hispanic children were less likely than non-Hispanic children to have reported vision screening.

“The Affordable Care Act requires new health insurance plans to provide certain clinical preventive services at no additional cost – with no copays or deductibles,” said Lorraine Yeung, M.D., M.P.H., medical epidemiologist with CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Parents need to know that many clinical preventive services for their children, such as screening and vaccination, are available for free with many health plans.”

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