Thursday, August 5, 2010

Are Georgia's Children Truly Prepared to Start School?

/PRNewswire/ -- Many children and teens are enjoying the remaining days of their summer vacation, but are they truly prepared for what lies ahead? Don't fret, with a few simple medical exams, Georgia's school-age children will be armed with the tools they need to have a more healthy school year. The exams we are referring to are given in a doctor's and/or dentist's office, and should take place before or shortly after the start of the new school year, and include a routine doctor's exam to confirm that all immunizations are up-to-date, a dental exam and a vision exam.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA) is reinforcing the importance of parents talking with their child's pediatrician about the specific examinations their child should receive. This helps ensure that Georgia's youth population receives the care it needs and deserves. "As parents prepare their children and teenagers for the transition back to school, they need to make sure each child gets the recommended immunizations, along with an eye exam and dental cleaning," said Dr. Robert McCormack, Medical Director, BCBSGA.


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

-- The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is recommended for girls
beginning at ages 11-12 and may be given to boys beginning at ages
11-12 to reduce their likelihood of acquiring genital warts. The HPV
vaccine is a three-dose series administered over a six-month period.

For the 2010-2011 flu season, which begins in the fall of 2010, the seasonal flu vaccine will include protection against the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. All children through age 18 should be immunized. Younger children who have never had a seasonal vaccine will need two doses. Additional information about the flu is available at and

The message seems to be hitting home on some level because according to a report, 73% of Georgia's children, ages 19 months to 36 months, were immunized in 2008, compared to the national average of 78% percent.


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® 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 and/or performs in class," said McCormack. "Poor vision can result in lower grades and ultimately lower self esteem."


Interestingly, many parents do make sure their child is current on their immunizations and vision exams; but, 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.

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.

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.

Anthem provides coverage for most vaccines and exams. However, policyholders should confirm their specific benefits by calling the toll-free number listed on their insurance card.

"We encourage our members to make sure their children start the school year off on the right foot health-wise by getting the recommended immunizations, and having their eyes and teeth examined," said McCormack. "These simple exams are essential for keeping children and teens healthy, letting them focus on other events and activities during the school year."

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