Don’t Skip Your Child’s Annual Well Visit This Year

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As we start to shift to a “new normal” following the Michigan’s mandated stay-at-home order, it is important that you and your child’s general health remain a top priority. Over the past few months, doctor’s appointments have been cancelled, delayed and rescheduled. But that doesn’t mean COVID-19 should be an excuse to skip out on annual wellness visits.

Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics have shown a major drop in the number of pediatric appointments scheduled around the country. Health systems have even adopted the use of #CallYourPediatrician to encourage parents to reschedule appointments.

Unfortunately, Henry Ford pediatrician Tisa Johnson-Hooper, M.D., fears that many parents will opt to not bring their children in for their well visits this year.

“COVID-19 has changed people’s priorities for their primary care visits,” Dr. Johnson says. “Parents don’t realize how important their child’s well visit is to their overall health.”

The Importance Of Well Visits

One of the biggest misconceptions about well visits is that it is just an examination of your child’s physical health. As a result, some parents think sports physicals or monitoring your child’s physical health at home can replace these appointments.

While the physical aspect of the appointment is good, your child’s pediatrician does a lot more than look in your child’s ears or listen to their heart.

“In addition to the child’s physical health we engage in both developmental and social-emotional surveillance and screening,” says Dr. Johnson. “This is important to help identify children who are at risk or have fallen behind in their development so that we can help get them connected to needed supports and diagnostic evaluation.”

Because of these regular well visits, your pediatrician will develop a good relationship with your child and be able to provide advice and guidance based on your child’s development as they get older.

In addition to a physical exam, your child’s well visit may also include:

  • Conversations about your child’s mental, social, emotional and behavioral development
  • Screenings to evaluate your child’s development in these different areas
  • Conversations about your child’s diet, sleep, bathroom habits, school performance and risky behaviors
  • Time to ask your child’s pediatrician any additional health questions
  • Blood work
  • Immunizations

“Because of COVID-19, some children are behind on their immunizations,” says Dr. Johnson. “We are at risk of leaving people more vulnerable to disease because of a lack of vaccine coverage.”

Even if you are behind on your child’s immunizations, do not think that he or she can’t get caught up. Children are at higher risk for diseases like measles, pneumonia and meningitis. Keeping up with their immunization schedule can help protect them. If your child missed a vaccine, talk to your doctor about their recommendations for getting caught up.

What To Expect At Your Child’s Well Visit

Like other health appointments following COVID-19, things may be a bit different the next time you bring your child in for their annual visit.

“You will be safe,” says Dr. Johnson. “We are taking steps to decrease patient flow to avoid unnecessary waiting and interactions.”

Here are some other things that you can expect for your next visit:

  • A prescreening questionnaire sent to you the day before your child’s appointment
  • Health screenings at all clinic/hospital entrances
  • Face mask policies
  • Universal handwashing practices
  • Thorough and frequent cleaning of exam rooms and waiting areas
  • Social distancing
  • Well visits and sick visits scheduled at different parts of the day or in separate parts of the clinic

While most pediatric appointments shifted to virtual visits during the stay-at-home order, in-person visits are now able to be scheduled as normal again. Virtual visits can still be used to address health concerns and questions when appropriate.

If you or your child are experiencing COVID symptoms or have potentially been exposed to the virus, do not use that as a reason to not seek care. Instead, bring this up to pediatric staff as you are making your appointment. Your child’s pediatrician and team can make extra precautions to keep themselves, you and your child safe.

“Well visits are an essential public health need,” Dr. Johnson says. “Don’t skip out on something that is so beneficial to your child’s development.”


To find a pediatrician or to schedule an appointment, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Read more wellness advice in our ParentWell section, or subscribe to get all the latest tips right to your inbox.

Dr. Tisa Johnson-Hooper is a board-certified pediatrician and serves as the medical director of the Henry Ford Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center- New Center One in Detroit.

Categories: ParentWell