Primary health care providers and pediatricians are in a unique position to promote children’s developmental health

Primary health care providers and pediatricians are in a unique position to promote children’s developmental health

December 28, 2015

Developmental screening can be done by a number of professionals in health care, community, and school settings. However, primary health care providers and pediatricians are in a unique position to promote children’s developmental health.

They are able to provide family-centered, comprehensive, coordinated care, including a more complete medical assessment when a screening indicates a child is at risk for a developmental problem. This is especially important considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 17 percent of children have a developmental or behavioral disability and 1 in 68 children are diagnosed annually with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Additionally, many children have delays in language which can impact school readiness.  

Developmental screenings help identify children who have developmental delays or problems that indicate a need for further evaluation or intervention. Screenings also provide parents, families and caregivers a better understanding of a child’s strengths and needs.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children receive developmental screenings at 9, 18, and 24-30 months in order to identify delays and provide intervention services as early as possible."  

However, in Spokane County, as shown in a recent Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) survey of 182 pediatric providers, only 2 percent reported routinely using a standardized screening tool. Fifty-five percent reported occasionally using standardized screening tools and 27 percent indicated they did not have adequate time during routine visits to thoroughly screen children.  

To increase the number of Spokane County children receiving timely screenings, the health district’s Universal Developmental Screening (UDS) project is raising awareness as to the importance of screening kids early. The new year ushers in year three of this advocacy work with leadership assistance from  the health district’s local pediatric champion, Dr. Kristi Rice. 

A project to train and support pediatricians in incorporating standardized screenings into their clinical practice, per the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines, is currently being implemented with assistance from Dr. Rice. To date, 13 pediatric providers from Rockwood Clinic and Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS) participated in trainings and are incorporating screenings into their practices.  Encouragingly, Providence pediatricians implemented universal screenings prior to the health district’s project. And, beginning in January 2016, providers can bill, and be reimbursed for, three standard screenings and an additional specific screening for autism. Please contact Heather Wallace, SRHD health program specialist, for additional information or to answer any questions, hwallace@srhd.org or 509.324.1646. The health district’s training also includes referral process information and resources for intervention services through SRHD’s Infant Toddler Network and local school districts.