September 15, 2014

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of children and adolescents in the United States did not receive important preventative medical and dental care prior to the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010. Preventative services are an important part of good medical care—for children, adolescents, and adults—and help support normal growth and development in young people.

Detecting conditions earlier—when they may be more treatable—often can reduce the risk for serious illness and complications. Preventative care also can help cut down on the need for expensive medical treatment in many cases.

A report published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Supplement on September 10, 2014 focused on the following clinical preventative services:

  • Prenatal breastfeeding training and counseling
  • Newborn hearing screening/follow-up care
  • Developmental screening
  • Lead screening
  • Vision screening/follow-up care
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Dental care/preventative dental services
  • HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine
  • Tobacco use screening/cessation programs
  • Reproductive health services (including STD screening)

Here are some of the findings published in the CDC’s report:

    Parents of almost 80 percent of children aged 10 months to 4 years report that they were not asked to complete a formal screen for developmental delays by their child’s health care provider within the past year. (2007)

  • More than half of all children and adolescents did not visit a dentist and almost 90 percent did not receive a topical fluoride application or dental sealant within the past year. (2009)
  • About half of young women between the ages of 13 and 17 did not receive the first dose of HPV vaccine as recommended. (2011)
  • In adolescents 11 to 21 years of age, tobacco use was not documented in about 1 of 3 outpatient clinic visits. About 80 percent of those who screened positive for tobacco use did not receive information about cessation programs. (2004–2010)
  • In children and adolescents 3 to 17 years old, blood pressure measurements were not documented in about one-quarter of outpatient clinic visits. (2009–2010)

According to the CDC report, children and adolescents who have health insurance are more likely to receive preventative services than children who are not covered by insurance. The report concludes that other disparities in childhood preventative care also exist. For example, non-Hispanic children and adolescents were more likely to report vision screening than Hispanic children.

It’s important for parents and caregivers to realize that through the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans are now required to provide a number of preventative services without additional cost, co-payments, or deductibles. Several childhood screenings and immunizations are now free with many health insurance plans.

Parents, caregivers, health care providers, insurers, and health care agencies should work together to ensure adequate preventative care for all children and adolescents.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 15 Sep 2014

Last Modified: 19 Mar 2015