Sunday, December 10, 2023

Health Advocates Call for Back-to-School Checkups for Kids

An estimated one in five families skipped preventive checkups during the pandemic, so health experts encourage families to get back on track. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — As summer draws to a close, experts are reminding parents not to overlook health screenings for kids. Back-to-school time brings a lot of additions to the family schedule, and Virginia parents need to consider a checkup too.

Dr. Elaine Perry, health director for the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, said checkups help keep kids on their vaccine schedule.

“One of the things that is really important to make sure, because it isn’t visible, is whether or not children are up-to-date on all the vaccines that they need, and there are certain times where certain vaccines are required,” Perry pointed out. “In Virginia, we really pay attention at entry into kindergarten, entry into seventh grade and entry into 12th grade.”

Perry emphasized keeping up to date with vaccinations helps ensure kids begin school on time.

Health experts also want parents to pay attention to oral hygiene, to have kids brush their teeth twice a day and take them for regular dental checkups.

Dr. Donna O’Shea, national chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare, said some preventable problems are all too common.

“Tooth decay is largely preventable, but unfortunately it ranks as the most common chronic disease among children,” O’Shea noted. “In fact, by age five, nearly 50% of children have at least one cavity.”

Getting back to routines also includes things not done during the pandemic, with many parents having skipped kids’ preventive-care visits. O’Shea stressed hearing tests are especially important for younger children.

“Like vision and dental, early detection of hearing issues is crucial for getting treatment as soon as possible,” O’Shea urged. “And that’s really important because hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop speech, language and social skills.”

State resources and information about care providers can be found online at

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