In particular, getting vaccines is part of a child’s well visits and prevents diseases like measles. These vaccines have saved thousands and thousands of lives. If children aren’t receiving immunizations as scheduled, a significant vaccine gap will occur. This gap jeopardizes not only the unvaccinated child but immunocompromised children and adults who can’t get vaccinated for health reasons. We could see a resurgence of preventable diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, and pertussis which could threaten entire communities.
Beyond my concerns as a physician, well-child visits are important to me as a member of Mission: Readiness. Mission: Readiness is a membership group comprised of retired admirals and generals who champion evidence-based policies that prepare youth for life and to be able to serve our nation in any way they choose, including military service. One of our top-of-mind concerns is that today, 71 percent of American youth ages 17-24 are not eligible for military service due to challenges such as obesity and behavioral problems, which can be screened for and prevented through well-child visits.
There is good news. Children enrolled in CHIP/Medicaid have access to Healthchek, Ohio’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Program that covers 12 complete medical exams during a child’s first 30 months and then yearly exams going forward. The program includes exams, developmental screenings, and immunizations.
In many instances, negative long-term outcomes for children can be linked to a failure to receive well-child visits. Please ensure children are receiving their regular well-child visits, even during COVID. They are crucial to give our children the safest, healthiest path forward in life and will help open the door to military service for those who choose it.
Dr. Charles O. Dillard, MD, is a retired Brigadier General in the United States Army.