I’m traveling this week and taking a break from writing. Instead, here is our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vindell Washington, with a post about keeping your children healthy. Why is this important to talk about on a blog about healthcare costs? Well, for one, it meets Blue Cross’s mission of improving the health and lives of Louisianians. Second, staying healthy is one way to keep healthcare costs down, as well as reduce missed days of school and work. I know that’s important to the people who read this blog.
Guest post by Dr. Vindell Washington, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer
It’s nearly August. Louisiana students will be heading back to school soon, and it’s the perfect time to schedule an annual wellness visit for your children. Your children’s doctor can check their developmental progress and make sure they are up to date on immunizations, screenings and tests.
It’s important to get in the habit of having a checkup every year, and back to school is a good time to do that. It’s a chance to touch base with your doctor and plan together how you can improve your children’s health status and keep them healthy.
Shot, Shot, Shot, Shot, Shot
It’s particularly important for you, as parents, to make sure your children are up to date on all recommended vaccines, given that the United States is currently experiencing the worst measles outbreak in more than 25 years. There have been more than 1,000 cases of measles reported in 28 states since the beginning of 2019.
As of this writing, there have not been any cases reported in Louisiana, but it’s important that we are mindful of the risk and make sure children are vaccinated against this potentially fatal illness. Vaccination not only protects the child being vaccinated, it protects the whole community against the spread of contagious diseases.
A big part of why measles is coming back after having been unheard of for so long is that there are small but increasing numbers of children who have not been vaccinated against it.
Vaccines are important throughout our lives, and are a critical part of your child’s health regimen. If you have concerns or aren’t sure which vaccines your child should receive, talk to your doctor. Ask questions so your doctor can give you information and guide you through the process.
Most day cares, school systems, colleges and universities require proof of vaccination before a child can enroll. Some vaccines are recommended for early childhood, and others are recommended for adolescence or even young adulthood. For example, there is a meningitis vaccine requirement for Louisiana college students. It’s important that parents of children of all ages talk to their children’s doctor every year to make sure they’ve gotten the shots they need for their age group.
Adults even some need some vaccines. There are annual vaccines like the flu shot that can help you and your family prevent seasonal illness, and also a tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough booster that can prevent three diseases that could threaten your life. Check with your primary care doctor to make sure you are up-to-date.
Preventing Childhood Obesity
For your children, their annual wellness visit is also a good opportunity to check for general health. Your child’s doctor can screen for particular types of diseases, like cancers, and try to prevent things before they happen or become catastrophic.
Healthcare professionals can also check your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) for risk of being overweight or obese. Louisiana unfortunately has the eighth-highest rate of obesity among children ages 10 to 17. Children who are obese tend to be at greater risk of adult obesity, and obesity overall is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, bone or joint conditions and certain types of cancers.
If your child’s doctor determines he/she is overweight or obese, then your child may qualify for wellness benefits including health coaching on diet and exercise, BMI screenings and counseling.
Blue Cross has joined the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in offering preventive benefits like these to combat childhood obesity. Depending on a child’s particular needs and health situation, these covered benefits could include dietitian visits to teach healthy eating habits, regular follow-up screenings and counseling to work on behavior changes toward a healthier lifestyle.
Contact your health plan’s Customer Service at the number on your member ID card to find out how obesity prevention benefits are covered on your plan.
How to Use Your Children’s Benefits
Most health plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana health plans, cover an annual wellness visit for children at low or $0 out-of-pocket cost.
Call your health plan’s customer service at the number on your member ID card to see how these visits are covered on your health plan and how much they will cost.
You can see me sharing back-to-school health tips in this short video (1:26).
– Dr. Vindell Washington