Twenty percent of U.S. teens have unhealthy cholesterol levels, but even younger children are often affected. As many as 2.6 million kids suffered from major depression in 2013, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. Among adolescents, suicide is a leading cause of death. And in this country, teens and young adults between ages of 13 and 24 make up one-quarter of all new HIV cases.
These are the startling statistics behind a new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children should get screened for a variety of chronic health conditions, from high cholesterol, to depression, to HIV. These recommendations, published today in the journal Pediatrics, are part of a growing trend toward screening for all children in certain age groups, and not just for those with increased risk factors.
Parents may wonder why the American Academy of Pediatrics is advocating for universal screening for certain chronic conditions. For one thing, research shows targeted screening misses too many kids with high cholesterol. "Instead, we're simplifying things by saying all kids should be screened around age 9 or 10," Dr. Geoffrey Simon explains.
He adds when it comes to HIV, targeted screening creates a stigma around the disease. Therefore, the AAP is recommending HIV tests for teens between 16 and 18. Annual depression screenings should begin at age 11, and continue through age 21.
Incidentally, these screenings do not mean we will see an increased incidence of kids on medication, the organization says. "We're trying to get to kids before they reach the point where they might need medication," Dr. Simon stressed.
No word on whether health insurance would cover these new, preventative universal screenings.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.