Although school has just begun, it is already exam time for students throughout Wisconsin. That's because in addition to notebook paper and pens, back-to-school preparations should also include routine health exams to make sure students are healthy and ready to learn. These include: a doctor's exam to confirm that all immunizations are up-to-date, a dental exam and a vision exam.
"At Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we're committed to improving health throughout our community and want parents to know the significant role health can play in their student's ability to learn," said Dr. Michael Jaeger, managing medical director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin (Anthem). "Making sure your children and teenagers have the recommended immunizations they need, along with an eye exam and dental cleaning before or at the start of the school year is essential to getting them off to a good start."
Many insurance policies cover routine exams, but this can vary based on the policy or type of insurance you have. Anthem provides coverage for most vaccines and exams, and Anthem policyholders should confirm their specific benefits by calling the toll-free number listed on their insurance card. If you are unsure of whether or not doctor, dental or vision screenings are covered by your health insurance, contact your insurer to find out before going to the doctor.
Persons interested in purchasing insurance coverage for themselves or their family can contact Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield at 1-800-742-8199 or online at www.anthem.com.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are many recommended vaccines for children and teens, including influenza, which should be given to all school-age children from six months to 18 years. Other immunizations include:
- The meningococcal vaccine, which is recommended for those who are age 11-12 and at age 13-18 if not previously vaccinated.
- The tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, which is recommended for all adolescents age 11-12 who have not received a tetanus and diphtheria toxoids vaccine (Td) booster dose. Adolescents between age 13-18 who missed the 11-12 Tdap dose or received Td only are encouraged to receive one dose of Tdap five years after the last Td/DTaP dose.
- The varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. All children should receive two doses of the chickenpox vaccine at age 12-15 months and 4-6 years. Since the risk for transmission can be high among school-aged children and teens, those without evidence of immunity should receive two doses of the chickenpox vaccine and those who received one dose previously should receive a second dose.
- The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. All children should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine. A first dose is recommended at ages 12-15 months and a second dose at ages 4-6 years. If not previously vaccinated, children and teens age 7-18 should be vaccinated.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is recommended for girls beginning at ages 11-12. The HPV vaccine is a three-dose series administered over a six-month period.
This year, the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that children receive the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine when it becomes commercially available to the general public in the fall. ACIP has given prioritization for those administering the vaccine to first immunize children and young adults from six months to 24 years, and people living with or caring for children younger than six months of age before administering vaccines to the general population. Additional information about the flu is available at flu.gov and cdc.gov.
In addition to these CDC recommendations, parents should find out what vaccinations are required for students by their school district.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Bright Futures, 3rd Edition, school age children should be evaluated for visual difficulties at their annual visit and formally screened according to the AAP's recommended schedule.
In addition, the American Public Health Association (APHA) recently reported that one-in-four children in kindergarten through sixth grade has a vision problem. Some studies indicate that 80 percent of learning in children occurs visually; therefore, getting regular routine eye exams should be a major part of the back to school preparation. Undiagnosed vision problems can lead to difficulty with schoolwork, resulting in poor performance.
According to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) 2009 American Eye-Q(R) survey, 60 percent of children identified as "problem learners" actually suffer from undetected vision problems and in some cases have been inaccurately diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
"Having healthy eyes and clear vision can make all the difference in how a child learns or performs in class," said Dr. Jaeger. "Poor vision can result in lower grades and ultimately lower self esteem."
While, many parents make sure their child is current on their immunizations and vision exams, a visit to the dentist is oftentimes an afterthought. However, when children and teens get routine dental exams, many problems or issues can be caught early and possibly corrected.
According to the CDC, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year nationwide because of dental-related illness, and more than half of children aged five to nine have had at least one cavity or filling, with 78 percent of 17-year-olds having experienced tooth decay.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggest parents take their child to a pediatric dentist as soon as the first tooth appears, or at least by his or her first birthday. And then start the regular routine of visiting the dentist every six months for a dental exam and cleaning going forward.
Preventive health guidelines, vision and dental care tips, and a complete recommended immunization schedule are available for both Anthem members and non-members at www.anthem.com. The site also includes a helpful link to the Anthem Eye Health Resource Center, an online resource for eye health information. Additional dental health information is available at www.anthem.com/dental.