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Pediatricians: Families Should Dust Off Their Wellness Visit Calendars

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  The pandemic paused many facets of life, and a new report says wellness checkups for children were among them. With school resuming this fall, Wisconsin families are urged to get caught up on preventive care.

According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, new findings suggest there was a 27% decline in the United States in pediatric office visits in 2020. Dr. Sharon Rink, an Appleton-based pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy, said now's the time for kids to reconnect with their family physician to ensure their growth and development wasn't hindered.

"With younger children, it's just to make sure that their speech is progressing, that their gross motor is progressing," she said. "With older teens, it's just a good time to regroup: 'How is your family doing?'"

She said those conversations can help kids rid themselves of unhealthy habits they may have developed, such as too much screen time. While health experts say there are rare cases in which standard immunizations aren't called for, they urge following up on missed shots that are required for most children as they grow.

The report said 11 million routine vaccinations were missed during the pandemic. Dr. Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted the importance of staying on track.

"If too few people in a community are vaccinated against a particular disease, it means that we might see an outbreak of that disease; we've seen this before, with measles and with pertussis," she said. "And so it's so important to make sure that your child is vaccinated, not just to protect themselves, but also to protect everyone around them."

Rink said keeping kids healthy allows them to stay in the classroom, adding that they don't want to miss any more in-person learning, as so many did during COVID lockdowns.

"The devastation from the last year-and-a-half has been terrible in terms of mental health, physical health, academic progress," she said.

For families who avoided doctor visits out of safety concerns, Rink said offices still are carrying out protocols to prevent the spread of COVID. For those who have suffered financially because of the crisis, she recommended reaching out to county human service departments to learn more about resources for wellness visits.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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