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Media Contact: Cheryl Monkhouse
404-842-8516
cheryl.monkhouse@wellpoint.com

 Is it Exam Time for School Children Already?

Some of the Most Essential Exams are Conducted Outside of the Classroom, Before the School Year Begins

ATLANTA - August 6, 2009 - Although many children and teens are enjoying the remaining days of their summer vacation, it is actually exam time here in Georgia. Don't fret, the exams we are referring to are given in a doctor's and/or dentist's office instead of the traditional classroom, and should take place before or shortly after the start of the new school year. These exams include a routine doctor's exam to confirm that all immunizations are up-to-date, a dental exam and a vision exam.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA) is reinforcing the importance of annual exams for all school-age children, ensuring that Georgia's youth population receives the preventative care it needs and deserves. "As parents prepare their children and teenagers for the transition back to school, they need to make sure each child gets the recommended immunizations, along with an eye exam and dental cleaning," said Dr. Robert McCormack, Medical Director, BCBSGA.

Vaccinations:
There are many recommended vaccines for children and teens, including influenza, which should be given to all school-age children from six months to 18 years, as well as to those who have frequent contact with households that have infants and children up to four years and 11 months old. The whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine is commonly given to young children, but immunity fades over time. Therefore, the best protection for teens and pre-teens is a booster shot of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) to help protect against these three serious diseases.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that children receive the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine when it becomes commercially available to the general public in the fall. ACIP has given prioritization for those administering the vaccine to first immunize children and young adults from six months to 24-years-old, and people living with or caring for children younger than six months of age before administering vaccines to the general population.

The message seems to be hitting home because according to a StateHealthFacts.org report, 81 percent of Georgia's children, ages 19 to 35 months, were immunized in 2007, compared to the national average of 80 percent. Although Ga. ranks higher than some other states, thousands of children still go without annual vaccinations, putting them and their caregivers at risk.

In addition, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for girls ages 11 to 12 years. The HPV vaccine is a three-dose series administered over a six-month period. Anthem provides coverage for most vaccines. However, policyholders should confirm their specific benefits by calling the toll-free number listed on their insurance card.

Vision:
The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently reported that one-in-four children in kindergarten through sixth grade has a vision problem. In addition, some studies indicate that 80 percent of learning in children occurs visually; therefore, getting regular routine eye exams should be a major part of the back to school preparation. Undiagnosed vision problems can lead to difficulty with schoolwork, resulting in poor performance.

According to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) 2009 American Eye-Q® survey, 60 percent of children identified as "problem learners" actually suffer from undetected vision problems and in some cases have been inaccurately diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"Having healthy eyes and clear vision can make all the difference in how a child learns and/or performs in class," said Dr. McCormack. "Poor vision can result in lower grades and ultimately lower self esteem."

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), a child should have his or her first screening, which is generally done by a pediatrician, anywhere from birth to age one. A second screening should be done at age three and another before the child starts school. Children should then have yearly exams unless a doctor suggests otherwise.

Dental:
Interestingly, many parents do make sure their child is current on their immunizations and vision exams; but, a visit to the dentist is oftentimes an afterthought. However, when children and teens get routine dental exams, many problems or issues can be caught early and possibly corrected.

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggest parents take their child to a pediatric dentist as soon as the first tooth appears, or at least by his or her first birthday. And then start the regular routine of visiting the dentist every six months for a dental exam and cleaning going forward.

According to the CDC, more than 51 million school hours are lost each year nationwide because of dental-related illness, and more than half of children aged five to nine have had at least one cavity or filling, with 78 percent of 17-year-olds having experienced tooth decay.

"We encourage our members to make sure their children start the school year off on the right foot health-wise by getting the recommended immunizations, and having their eyes and teeth examined," said Dr. McCormack. "These simple exams are essential for keeping children and teens healthy, letting them focus on other events and activities during the school year."


About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Inc. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Healthcare Plan of Georgia, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association® . The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia is available at www.bcbsga.com.

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