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In Early Childhood, Continuous Care by One Doctor Improves Delivery of Health Screenings
Date:3/3/2008

PHILADELPHIA, March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Children examined by the same doctor during their first six months of life are more likely to receive appropriate preventive health screenings -- for lead poisoning, anemia and tuberculosis -- by age two. Pediatric researchers said being cared for repeatedly by the same physician, often referred to as continuity of care, was a very important factor in the children they studied.

Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and The University of Pennsylvania reported on a study of 1,564 infants with Medicare insurance in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics. All the infants were born at three Philadelphia-area hospitals between July 1999 and March 2001 and received health care at over 120 different primary care offices. The finding applied to all office visits, in addition to "well child" visits, and children were followed for the first two years of life.

"Continuity of care may be of particular importance to vulnerable pediatric patients, such as those insured through the Medicaid program," said Evaline Alessandrini, M.D., M.S.C.E., a pediatrician at Children's Hospital and principal investigator of the study. "All health care visits, not just well child visits, are important in establishing relationships with families and meeting children's health care needs."

Children most at risk, such as those from urban, low-income families, often don't receive proper screening for lead toxicity, anemia and tuberculosis. Lead toxicity in early life can lead to lower intelligence later. Iron deficiency anemia can cause problems with movement and damage sight or hearing. Tuberculosis, while becoming less common, can have serious complications for children.

Attempts to improve outcomes should focus not only on increasing the number of visits to a primary care provider, but also reducing the number of pediatricians treating the child over time. A next step is to identif
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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