BROOKSVILLE — Jen Darby, mother of 13-year-old Tyler and 9-year-old Jessie, spends a good portion of summer vacation preparing for the upcoming school year. Like most parents she plans back-to-school shopping trips for clothes and school supplies and hunts for the best deals.
But Darby also plans their doctor visits, scheduling annual trips to the dentist, the eye doctor and the pediatrician as part of her children’s summertime routines.
Neither of her children is on a sports team. Yet Darby makes their medical and dental appointments before each new school year. It keeps her on task, she said. That way, she is assured their immunizations are up to date and the paperwork their schools require is in place.
“I don’t look forward to it,” she said. But her children’s pediatrician, William Acefedo, who has seen Jessie since birth, makes the visit tolerable. “The staff is fantastic,” Darby said. The wait time is minimal and the doctor meets with both children during their visit.
He knows their health history and provides the kind of assurance Darby needs that both of her children are healthy.
It is often the only visit her children will make in the year.
Schools usually do not require annual physicals unless a student is entering an organized sport. Yet the practice is a good one, said Darby, because she stays aware of any changes in her children’s health.
Health care experts encourage annual visits such as the ones Darby schedules for her son and daughter, even if children don’t participate in organized sports. Yearly check-ups might be the only time an older child visits the doctor, says HealthChildren.org, and developing a baseline that is monitored regularly is a good defense against surprise ailments or the early onset of a preventable or treatable disease.
It also is significant that checkups performed by a family physician or a child’s pediatrician generally are more thorough than school-sponsored sports physicals. The family physician typically has documented history of a child’s development and, in many cases, has developed a rapport with the child.
Moreover, additional issues, particularly those relating to older adolescents and teens, are more apt to be addressed when a relationship has been established. These might include discussions of risky behavior such as experimenting with drinking, smoking, drug use or sexual activity. It also can be a more open environment for discussions of typical concerns like peer pressure or depression.
Another benefit to annual visits is that a baseline is built that can be referenced if a child eventually decides to participate in sports. Overburdening or overusing muscle groups is becoming common and results in more risk of injury.
Regular visits also help busy families keep regular dialog about making healthy fitness and nutrition choices. With a familiar physician involved in the discussion, families can adopt better overall health practices.
Obesity among children is a serious problem and proactive solutions often are discussed during well-care visits.
“Once the doctor visits are done, I don’t have to think about it again for another year,” said Darby. She knows everything is up to date and the school won’t contact her at an inconvenient time, requesting a piece of needed paperwork.
Now, if everything else related to back-to-school could be so simple.