Preventive Medical 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 medical 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 health care. Overall, 84.4 percent of children received at least one preventive medical visit in the previous year.

The receipt of preventive care visits varies by age, health insurance status, and race and ethnicity. Approximately 82 percent of children aged 6-17 years received at least one preventive care visit in the previous year, compared to 89.7 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 87.8 percent of children with private health insurance and 84.1 percent of children with public health insurance received at least one preventive visit, only 53.7 percent of uninsured children did so.

The use of preventive health care varies slightly by race and ethnicity as well. Non-Hispanic White children were most likely to have received a preventive visit (86.4 percent), followed by non-Hispanic children of other races and non-Hispanic Black children (84.7 and 84.2 percent, respectively). Hispanic children were least likely to have received a preventive care visit (80.7 percent).

1 Green M, Palfrey JS, eds. 2002 Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents (2nd ed. rev). Arlington, VA: National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health.