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Finding your child’s health home

By: Dr. Robert Oldham
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It seems like the school doors just shut for the summer, and yet in just a few short weeks they’ll reopen for another school year.

It’s a good time for parents to check and make sure that our children are up-to-date on vaccines to protect against communicable diseases like measles and whooping cough. And that’s the perfect time to find your child a “health home” if you haven’t already.

A “health home” is the place where we normally go for regular medical care. It is a place with medical professionals who know us (or our children) best. Under most insurance plans, it is our health home’s responsibility to provide the basic medical services necessary to help keep us healthy. A health home for a child is often a pediatrician or family medicine doctor’s office. In addition to physicians, these offices will often have nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other medical professionals who often work together to provide a wide array of services to keep children healthy. This may include things like monitoring growth and development so they can help to prevent problems or address them early before they result in serious consequences. The medical professionals at your health home can also provide advice to parents to keep kids physically, mentally and socially healthy.

Having an established health home will help promote trusting, collaborative relationships over time between you, your child and a team of medical professionals. Like all strong, healthy relationships, building relationships with medical providers takes time and effort. Visits to the doctor can be nerve-wracking to everyone, but especially to young children. Having a strong relationship with a team of medical professionals at a medical home can make this experience less scary and more effective. You and your child will likely feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing concerns. In addition, if your child needs a referral to a specialist or more acute care, your health home will be able to facilitate this.

Parents can start looking for a “health home” for their child as early as during pregnancy. Everyone may have different likes and dislikes when it comes to medical care, and that’s OK! You can meet doctors face-to-face in advance to discuss topics that are important to you and assess if they’ll be a good fit for your family. It can be helpful to choose a doctor that is relatively close by, and one that is accustomed to working with young children.  

It’s not too early, either, to connect your child with a regular dentist. By “first tooth or first birthday” is a good rule of thumb, as cavities can start to creep in early. Pediatric dentists have experience treating children, which is crucial when you’re dealing with whirring drills that can leave even adults feeling unsettled.

Virtually all children in Placer County should now be eligible for affordable health insurance. Many health insurance plans will automatically assign you and your child a medical home if you don’t select one. If you do not have a health home, please call your health insurance plan for assistance.  

Dr. Rob, Robert Oldham, is Placer County’s public health officer and lives in Roseville. Contact his office at 530-889-7141.