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Preventive Health Care Visits

The Bright Futures guidelines for health supervision of infants, children, and adolescents recommend that children visit a physician six times during the first year, three times in the second year, and annually thereafter for preventive health care visits.1 An annual preventive health care visit provides an opportunity to monitor a child's growth and development, to assess his or her behavior, to provide appropriate immunizations, to discuss important issues regarding nutrition and prevention of injury and violence, and to answer parents' questions about their children's health and care. Overall, 88.5 percent of children received a preventive care visit in the past year.

The receipt of preventive care visits varied by age, health insurance status, and race and ethnicity. Parents of 84.2 percent of children aged 12-17 years and of 85.5 percent of those aged 6-11 years reported that their children received a preventive care visit in the past year, compared to 96.0 percent of children from birth through age 5.

Children without health insurance were less likely to receive a preventive visit than those with either public or private health insurance. While 89.5 percent of children with private health insurance and 91.4 percent of children with public health insurance received a preventive visit, only 72.6 percent of uninsured children did so.

The use of preventive health care varied slightly by race and ethnicity as well. Black children were most likely to have received a preventive visit (91.5 percent), followed by multiracial and White children (89.4 and 88.6 percent, respectively). Hispanic children were least likely to have received a preventive care visit (85.9 percent).

1 Hagan JF, Shaw JS, Duncan PM, eds. Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents. Third edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008.