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Why is my child being screened?

We recently went to the doctor for my child's seventh grade physical. Our pediatrician screened him for cholesterol and also depression.

Why is this necessary? Is my child at risk?

Greg Severson | Pediatrician

Greg Severson

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new guidelines for screening children for some health conditions. Some of the changes are based on the rise in formerly-adult diseases we see developing in some children – like pre-diabetes, heart disease and depression. Your physician is following these recommendations  - created to help identify risks while treatment can still potentially reverse some conditions.

Prevention has many benefits

Having a disease can be a lifetime burden for the person with the disease and for society who shares in the cost (s) (costs of care, loss of work manpower, etc.) of the disease. The outcome is variable and unpredictable, treatment is often expensive, and the disease physically and psychologically impairs quality of life.

For these reasons everyone would agree preventing disease is a better option.

When a disease or disease risk is identified in a child; through intervention pediatricians and others involved in the care have a great opportunity to alter the disease; before negative effects have developed, before bad habits are acquired, at a time when a child is still learning and amenable to new experiences/change.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Standards of Care

Since the 1960s the AAP has periodically made recommendations for screening children for disease and/or disease risk. Examples of past recommendations include: screening for autism, congenital hearing impairment, tuberculosis risk, lead exposure, and congenital disease(s) of the newborn. These recommendations have become "standard(s) of care" for children.

This year the Academy has issued 6 new recommendations:

  1. Screening adolescents for alcohol and drug use.
  2. Screening for depression at 11-21 years of age.
  3. Cholesterol screening between 9 and 11 years of age.
  4. Risk assessment for hematocrit or hemoglobin at 15 and 30 months of age.
  5. Screening for HIV between 16 and 18 years of age.
  6. Newborn screening for critical congenital heart disease (using pulse oximetry) before leaving the hospital

Let’s look at why three of these recommendations were made:

Based on age, many of the new tests are being done during the seventh grade physical, if not before.

I will explain the reasons for some of the new recommendations:

Screening for depression

Screening for cholesterol

Newborn congenital heart disease screening

Physican - Parent Partnership

Children are our greatest resource and it is the responsibility of physicians and parents to protect their welfare. These new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics will improve the lives of many children.

As new recommendations are made in the future it is important we continue to champion them.

Read more answers by Dr. Severson