Prevention is a hallmark of pediatric practice says the American Academy of Pediatrics. This organization also enumerated the following activities as elements of pediatric practice: immunizations, encouragement of bicycle helmets and car safety seats, and newborn screenings. However, such pediatric practices can only work if they are implemented on a routine basis. Unfortunately, this is not the case since some pediatricians are not aware that there are such policies, others are not in agreement with certain practices and some simply would like to do things their way. This begs the question: what are the best pediatric practices that really need to be implemented? Here are 5 pediatric care practices that we think should be emphasized and implemented by pediatricians.
Breastfeeding should be encouraged by pediatricians, exclusively if warranted, for the baby’s first six months. That means without the addition of juice, water and other supplementary foods. Breastfeeding should continue even after cereal is introduced in the baby’s diet which is around six months after the baby was born. According to the recommendations of the AAP, mothers should still continue to breastfeed their babies for the rest of the baby’s first year, if both the baby and the mother should desire to do so.
The AAP also listed some of the benefits of breastfeeding to encourage mothers to implement this practice. According to the AAP, if the mother breastfeeds, her child is protected against a host of illnesses that includes respiratory tract infection, diarrhea, urinary tract infection, childhood overweight and obesity, bacteremia, lymphoma, Hodgkins disease. leukemia, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, otitis media, late-onset sepsis in preterm infants and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants.
Mothers, according to the AAP, will also benefit if they continue breastfeeding their babies in its first year. These benefits include reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancers, earlier restoration of their weight before their pregnancy, reduced blood loss due to menstruation thereby increasing their child spacing, faster uterine involution and reduced postpartum bleeding.
2) Vision Examination
Formal vision examination or screening test of eh baby should be conducted at his annual visit to the pediatrician’s clinic starting at three years of age. If the child is uncooperative in his initial screening test, the pediatrician should examine the child within six months. The annual vision should be conducted continuously until he is six years old. After six years, the vision examination should be done every other year in a less formal manner until he is twelve years old. When the child reaches the age of 15, he should have formal vision examinations until he is 18 years old. In addition, vision risk examination should also be conducted in conjunction with the every other year checkups.
The AAP also strongly supports the requirement of immunization for entry to school. It also recommends universal immunization. As a reaction to the resurgence of measles in May 1992, the U.S. Public Health Service along with different groups of public health and medical experts, created the Standards for Pediatric Immunization Practices. These standards were also endorsed by the AAP. They represent the best practices for all immunization programs and healthcare providers.
Even if these standards are directly addressed to healthcare professionals and those who are conducting immunization programs, they can also provide guidelines to the public as to what they can expect from the programs and the providers which are responsible for the care of their children.
4) Hearing Examination
The AAP also endorses hearing examinations for all newborns. Evaluation of the baby’s hearing should be done after three months of being born. This three month old examination should also be conducted if the baby fails his initial hearing tests. It should be conducted so that if the baby’s hearing problem is permanent, early intervention can be done before he is six months old.
Additionally, older children should begin their formal hearing tests when they reach 4 years of age. The examinations should be done annually and should continue until the child is 10 years old. After that, hearing risk assessment should be done in a less formal manner at the child’s annual checkup.
5) Autism Screening
The AAP also recommends for pediatricians to look for subtle signs of autism at every checkup. These red flags of autism include delayed baby talk, not responding when the child’s name is called, delayed babbling, poor eye contact, and so forth. If these early signs are present, the pediatrician should use a formal tool to determine if autism is present at 18 and 24 months.