Jun 12, 2020

Keeping Kids Healthy:  Make Conversations with Parents About Immunizations and Well-Child Visits Part of Your Reopening Check List

Rebecca Bell, MD, MPH is a board-certified Pediatric Critical Care Physician at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM, and the current President of the Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As a mother of two young children in child care, I witness firsthand the many ways that early childhood educators keep children safe and build a foundation for lifelong health and well-being. I see the ways that you connect and reach out to families, especially during important changes and transitions in their lives.

As a pediatrician, I see many families delaying important well child check-ups and vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are wondering if it is safe to take their young child to their doctor’s office. 

Knowing that early childhood educators are a trusted resource for families, you are ideal partners in keeping children connected to their medical home. As you welcome children and families back to your child care program, consider adding preventive care questions to reopening enrollment checklists. Some facts that may be helpful for you to know when talking with families about preventive health care for their children:

• Pediatric and Family Medicine offices are open and taking extra steps to make sure staff, children, and families are safe during office visits.

> Some offices have separated “sick” and “well” areas of their clinic or are scheduling the youngest children early in the day before other patients.

> Many offices have minimized or eliminated waiting room time and have implemented strict room cleaning protocols between patient encounters.

> Protocols also include appropriate PPE for staff and cloth face coverings for the caregiver accompanying the child.

• Although virtual visits through telehealth are appropriate for some issues, there are important aspects of well-child care that cannot be accomplished virtually. Pediatricians will want to see children in the office to:

> Monitor growth, blood pressure, and other vital signs.

> Stay up-to-date on immunizations and routine screenings for hearing, vision, and lead.

> Assess developmental milestones.

> Evaluate and treat infections or injuries.

> Screen for early signs of serious conditions with a comprehensive physical exam.

The last three months have been challenging for families. Children have lost that crucial constant connection with their early childhood educators and have had less frequent contact with their medical home. We know children thrive when their medical home and child care work collaboratively with their caregivers to provide support for a healthy and nurturing environment. Children may be struggling with the recent absence of community supports but I am hopeful with the reopening of child care that we can work together to support these families.

Please remind families that their child’s primary care office is available to answer any questions. It is important, now more than ever, to keep children healthy by staying up-to-date on immunizations and well-child care and addressing any acute issues as soon as possible. Thank you for helping for helping to create healthy foundations for all kids.

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