The doctor is in
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The pandemic paused many facets of life, and a new report says wellness checkups for children were among them. And with school resuming this fall, Ohio families are urged to get caught up on preventive care.
The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute says new findings suggest the nation saw a 27% decline in pediatric office visits in 2020.
Cincinnati-area pediatrician Dr. Chris Peltier - with Pediatric Associates of Mount Carmel - explained that routine wellness visits are needed to ensure a child's growth is on pace, and to track important developmental markers.
"Fine motor, speech/language, social/emotional," said Peltier. "And when kids aren't coming in, there's a big concern that developmental disorders are not going to get picked up until later - which we know the earlier you intervene, the better the outcome is."
For older kids, Peltier said these visits are opportunities to screen for mental-health concerns, like anxiety or depression.
And while health experts say there are rare cases in which standard immunizations aren't called for, they urge following up on missed shots that are required for most children as they grow.
The report says 11 million routine vaccinations were missed during the pandemic. Peltier explained a decline in vaccination rates could result in fewer communities reaching herd immunity for preventable diseases.
"We are dealing with a pandemic that we have not seen in over 100 years," said Peltier. "And as contagious as COVID is, measles is transmitted at a much quicker rate. If we're not vaccinating our kids, we risk the emergence of these other vaccine-preventable illnesses."
Dr. Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted that keeping kids healthy allows them to stay in the classroom and avoid any more missed in-person learning.
And for families who avoided doctor visits out of safety concerns, Beers said offices are still carrying out protocols to prevent the spread of COVID.
"There's all sorts of reasons why a family may have not been able to make it in for their well visit," said Beers. "And we understand that, and we understand that it's been a hard year. But we also really want to make sure that your child is healthy and safe, and well protected."