Providing Primary Health Care for Young Children
Today’s medicine has evolved far beyond the field’s initial, almost singular, focus on infectious disease and injury. Medicine’s focus is instead on the management of chronic conditions, health maintenance, and promotion of healthy development – through preventive and developmental health services.
The role of the primary care practitioner, and particularly the child health practitioner, likewise has evolved. These professionals play multiple roles in ensuring healthy young child development. They respond to illness and injury while providing regular check-ups and well-child care. The health practitioner is the near universal point of professional contact with young children and their families.
And because the practitioner often is the only professional with whom young children are in regular contact, she or he plays a key role in screening for biomedical and social aspects of healthy child development. Increasingly, child health practitioners are first responders and referrers of young children and families to nonmedical services.
A Medical Home
States and communities, as well as practitioner champions, have developed the concept of the medical home as a consistent source of health care for young children and their families. For young children, the medical home:
- Involves instruction to parents on healthy child development (anticipatory guidance, in medical terms).
- Engages in activities to detect both biomedical and social concerns (developmental surveillance and screening).
- Connects both children and their families with sources of support that include subspecialty medical care and non-medical community services (referrals and multi-generational responses).
The BUILD Initiative is helping states develop the medical home model in ways that reinforce this two-generation focus to support healthy development in families and communities.