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 health care visit provides an opportunity to monitor a child’s growth and development, assess his or her behavior, provide appropriate immunizations, discuss important issues regarding nutrition and prevention of injury and violence, and answer parents’ questions about their children’s health and care.

Overall, 84.4 percent of children received a preventive medical care visit in the past year. This percentage was significantly higher in urban areas (85.3 percent) than in both large and small rural areas (81.4 and 80.8 percent, respectively).

Urban children aged 6–11 and 12–17 years were more likely to have received a preventive medical visit in the past year compared to their peers in both large and small rural areas. Among children aged 6–11 years, 83.4 percent of urban children had a visit in the past 12 months, compared to less than 77 percent of those in rural areas. Among adolescents, 82.6 percent of those in urban areas had a preventive visit in the past 12 months, compared to approximately 78 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in rural areas. Among children aged 0–5 years, the percentage with at least one preventive visit in the past year did not vary significantly by location.

In all locations, uninsured children were considerably less likely than those with insurance to receive a preventive medical visit in the previous year, and rates among the uninsured did not vary by location. Among children with private health insurance, those in urban areas (89.0 percent) were more likely to receive a preventive visit than their large rural and small rural peers (82.1 and 81.2 percent, respectively).

1 Hagan JF, Shaw J S, Duncan PM, eds. Bright Futures: guidelines for health supervision of infants, children, and adolescents, 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2008.

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