Dr Margarita Burmester and Dr Martin Gray, co-founders of the Bright Futures programme, believe that children’s well-being can greatly benefit from regular check-ups, even during stages of good health. This takes place in the form of regular screening to observe all aspects of their health. Learn about this programme, how it can benefit your child and what to expect should you bring your child to a well-clinic.
What is the Bright Futures programme?
When a child is sick, parents know to take them to their doctor. However, planned and structured clinic visits are just as important for healthy children as they grow and develop.
Bright Futures is an innovative and evidence-based programme of care in the UK for all children that keeps track of their physical, emotional and social development to maintain good health and wellbeing. These visits are delivered through well-child clinics.
Bright Futures has been developed by Dr Margarita Burmester and Dr Martin Gray, who are firm advocates of preventative paediatrics. Their screening programme is available at their Bright Futures Clinic in London.
Why should my child need to go to a well-child clinic?
Child health surveillance, also known as preventative paediatrics, is based on the fact that all children should have scheduled and regular paediatrician visits to screen and assess them for any underlying health condition from infancy to adolescence. This is to prevent disease via early detection and therefore offer prompt treatment. The American Academy of Paediatrics calls these visits well-child visits. Well-child clinics are a time when parents can check up on their child's health and make sure their child is growing and developing normally. Well-child visits usually start a few days after children are born and continue until the child turns 18.
How is disease prevented?
Children have a full medical examination and comprehensive screening history taken. Any concerns are discussed and sorted, and all appropriate vaccinations are offered. Parents can also learn about nutrition and safety tips for children at home and at school to avoid injuries and malnutrition.
What about growth and development?
Growth and development are monitored and parents can track their child’s growth from one visit to the next. Any developmental problems, behavioural problems or learning problems can be detected from an early stage and appropriate treatment and referrals can be made.
I might have some specific concerns, can I raise them?
This is an opportunity to raise any concerns that you may have about your baby or child. Regular well-child clinic visits allow you to ask questions about your child and raise any concerns that you might have about behaviour, sleeping and eating patterns or communication skills.
Regular well-child clinic visits create a bond between the parent, child and paediatrician. This helps children to develop optimal mental, physical and social health, and when they become teenagers, they may find it a safe place to go to in order to voice any concerns or anxieties that they have about themselves.
Can I prepare anything for a well-child clinic visit?
1. Make notes about anything you’ve noticed about your child’s health and development, including any behavioural changes.
2. Make a list of questions for the doctor and encourage your child to ask questions about their own health too. The Well-Visit Planner can help you to identify what questions you want to bring up.
3. Gather information for your doctor to take to the visit with you, such as school reports to help your doctor have a better picture of your child.
What happens when I go to a well-child clinic?
The health care team will conduct a physical examination, measure your child’s height and weight, update vaccines and immunisations and allow you, as a parent or care provider, to ask any questions you may have regarding your child’s health. If your child is a teenager, they will have one-on-one time with the doctor.
The visit involves:
- Detecting whether your child has any health concerns or underlying illnesses
- Offering ways to prevent your child from developing health problems
- Providing support for your child’s emotional, physical and social well-being
- Giving you the opportunity to ask questions and learn from healthcare advice
- You can ask questions and talk about your child’s growth, everyday life, challenges they face, family life, school performance and even your proudest moments
- To help you before your next visit, take notes during the visit to remind yourself of what you’ve learned and what can be improved. That can be your to-do list and have your health care team go over it with you.
What happens after a well-child clinic visit?
Depending on your child’s age, they may require visits every few weeks, months or every year. Bright Futures will organise this for you. In the meantime, make sure to take note of any significant changes or developments in your child’s health and daily life to have this ready for your next visit.
If you have questions before your next visit, the Bright Futures team will be available by telephone or email if you need them. Click here to visit the Bright Futures website.