The Importance of Annual Health Exams

Few parents would hesitate to take an ill child to the doctor. But what about seeing a doctor when your child is not sick? The “well-child” visit is the perfect time to build a good working relationship with your child’s doctor, and gain valuable health advice.

“We have a different focus for each well-visit,” said Wenhui Hua, M.D., a pediatrician at Henry Ford-New Center One in Detroit. “Immunizations are only a small portion of what we do.”

Dr. Hua noted that a May 2013 study from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research showed that children who missed more than half of recommended well-child visits had up to twice the risk of hospitalization compared to children who attended most of their visits.

Dr. Hua said that the 20-minute well-visit is tailored to each individual child’s age. Well-child visits can clear up concerns and answer questions along with giving guidance to parents.

Each well-child visit includes a complete physical examination. At this time, your child’s height and weight are measured, and checked against standard patterns of growth and development.

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“That’s why we do annual physicals,” Dr. Hua said. “We look at a trend over time to determine if there is a cause for concern.”

Hearing and vision screenings may be part of some visits, as well. Dr. Hua said that some hearing and vision problems may not show up until later on, another reason to stay on schedule.

Infants usually are seen for well-visits several times during the first year of life. During check-ups with well infants, moms are screened for any signs of post-partum depression, and they are given advice on feeding and sleeping patterns. As babies grow, doctors check for normal development milestones, such as sitting up, rolling over or using fingers to pick up objects.

Toddler visits are important, too, particularly around 16 to 18 months. Dr. Hua said that symptoms of autism are more identifiable at that time. “Before one year of age, it’s harder to see,” she said. Early identification of these symptoms leads to early intervention and better outcomes.

School-age children also benefit from regular well-child checks, Dr. Hua said. Parents have a chance to ask about school related matters, such as any learning problems or any signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). Also, forming good daily health habits, such as getting adequate sleep, are reviewed.

And teens are screened for any signs of depression or drug use. Areas such as school performance, sports participation and extra curricular activities are also monitored during a well-visit with a teen.

Dr. Hua suggested that parents make the most of well-child visits by thinking about what you want to discuss with the doctor before your visit. “Come with a list of questions to ask,” she said. Writing your questions and bringing them to the visit helps focus on areas of concern and starts the conversation with your health care provider.

To schedule a well-child visit or to make an appointment Dr. Wenhui Hua  or another Henry Ford doctor, call 800-HENRYFORD (800-436-7936) or log onto henryford.com.

Content brought to you by Henry Ford Health System.

This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2016

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