Checklist for the Checkup: Some Parents May Not Be Making the Most of Well Child Visits
This story appeared in the University of Michigan Health Blog. Read more here.
While most parents and caregivers stay on top of scheduling regular checkups for their kids, they may not always be making the most of them, a national poll suggests.
Most parents report their child has had a well visit in the past two years and two thirds say they always see the same provider, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at University of Michigan Health. However, fewer parents took all recommended steps to prepare themselves and their kids ahead of time.
“Regular well visits mean guaranteed face time with your child’s doctor and an opportunity to not only discuss specific concerns and questions about your child’s health but get their advice on general health topics like nutrition, sleep and behavior,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H. “We were pleased to see that the majority of parents regularly make these appointments and maintain relationships with a trusted provider. But they may not always be taking a proactive approach to ensuring they address all relevant health concerns impacting their child’s physical, emotional and behavioral health at every visit.”
In advance of well visits, a fourth of parents say they often prepare a list of questions to ask the provider, while a little over half said they sometimes wrote things down and about a fifth said they never do.
Meanwhile, about a fifth of parents say they often write down information about their child’s health changes while half say they sometimes take this step and three in 10 don’t do this at all.
“Well visits are busy, and in the moment, it’s easy for parents to forget to bring up questions or concerns with a doctor,” Clark said. “Writing them down ahead of time will help prioritize topics and help you get the most out of the appointment.”
Less than 15% of parents say they often research information online to discuss with the provider, while about half sometimes do and 38% never do.
“We are constantly learning new information that may impact children’s health and some recommendations may evolve or be updated,” Clark said. “Many pediatricians and care providers will bring these topics up themselves but not always. It’s always helpful for parents to do some homework ahead of time to make sure they’re aware of any timely topics affecting their child’s age group.”
Preparing children for the visit
Two in five parents say they often take steps to prepare their child for an upcoming well visit by addressing any fears they may have while slightly more than that sometimes do this while a little less than one in five never do this. A fourth of parents often also offer rewards for cooperating while less than half sometimes use such incentives.
For parents of children aged 6-12, a little more than one in five also regularly ask the child to think about questions for the provider.
“As kids approach puberty, their bodies begin changing. A well visit is a great opportunity to have the provider explain why these changes happen,” Clark said. “Having kids think about health topics themselves is also good practice for when they get older and parents become less involved with health visits. Preparing for this transition early will benefit them when they need to take more ownership of their health.”
Most parents also recall completing questionnaires and checklists about their child at well visits. Among these parents, the majority say they understand the purpose but just about three fourths say they receive feedback about how their child is doing.
“Children and their families are more often getting questionnaires at visits to help identify issues like sleep problems, challenges impacting emotional health and behavioral health concerns,” Clark said. “But when time is short, this may not come up during the actual visit. It’s important parents have conversations with providers about any issues that may surface from the child’s or family’s responses.”back to blog