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What the new screening guidelines for children's checkups mean

By: Mayo Clinic News Network
December 28, 2015 Updated: December 28, 2015 at 10:35 pm
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photo - The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its updated list of recommended health care screenings for children, which includes checking for depression, high cholesterol and HIV. (Photo courtesy Fotolia/TNS)
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its updated list of recommended health care screenings for children, which includes checking for depression, high cholesterol and HIV. (Photo courtesy Fotolia/TNS) 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its updated list of recommended health care screenings for children, which includes checking for depression, high cholesterol and HIV. Mayo Clinic Children's Center pediatrician Dr. Angela Mattke says the revised recommendations are a "firm affirmative to pediatricians that doing these screenings or testing will be beneficial to the child's health."

WHAT ARE WELL-CHILD VISITS?

Well-child visits are another name for routine checkups or physicals. "Much of the AAP Preventive Health Care Screening and Assessment Schedule for Children's Checkups includes screening as opposed to skipping straight to testing," Mattke says. "Screening usually involves asking questions pertaining to the subject or using a validated screening tool such as the CRAFFT (Car, Relax, Forget, Friends, Trouble) for drug and alcohol use or PHQ-9 Modified (depression screening tool) to make sure questions are asked in such a way that have been shown to pick up children and teens at risk for whatever they are screening for."

She stresses that screening children is necessary because some children are at risk for these health conditions, the rate of the conditions is increasing in younger age groups, and without screening, they may go undiagnosed and suffer serious health consequences.

DEPRESSION SCREENING EVERY YEAR FROM AGES 11 THROUGH 21

"Depression screening is so important. Mood disorders and suicide rates increased over the last couple of decades," Mattke says. "At least 10 percent of my practice is treating children with depression and anxiety. If we don't ask them about it in a safe manner, they may not disclose."

HIGH CHOLESTEROL SCREENING FOR CHILDREN AGES 9-11

Testing or screening children beginning at age 9 for high blood cholesterol levels may help reduce the national trend of increased childhood obesity. Mattke says by addressing high cholesterol in childhood, we can impact their adult risk factors for early coronary artery disease. She adds that teaching children and families about healthy diets and the importance of physical activity is a start.

HIV SCREENING FOR ADOLESCENTS AGES 16-18

"HIV rates are still increasing in this age group. Catching it early can mean a large difference in their overall health and ability to give it to other people through unprotected sex," Mattke says.

FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS

The new recommendations, says Mattke, should "give confidence to parents and guardians that their pediatricians are trying to give their children the best, evidence-based care.

"We do these screenings because they can impact the health and well-being of their child in a positive way."

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