Healthy kids check needs stronger evidence base


AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that the AMA supports the principle that parents should be given greater incentive to take personal responsibility for making sure that their children have a healthy start to life, but the Healthy Kids Check, in its current form, is not the right way to achieve this outcome.

Dr Pesce said the Healthy Kids Check needs to be redesigned in consultation with the medical profession to ensure that it targets the right risk factors in children at the right age and that there is an evidence base for this approach.

“The incentives for parents approach has worked well to boost immunisation levels because of the strong evidence base,” Dr Pesce said.

“However, the evidence to support the Healthy Kids Check, in its current form, is very poor.

“The AMA agrees that it is important to ensure that the health of children is checked from an early age on an ongoing basis.

“GPs assess children each and every time they see them, looking at things such as growth, vision, hearing and language development, as an integral part of high quality general practice.

“The Healthy Kids Check has not been as successful as the Government hoped because it comes too late in a child's development and is not based on the best practice guidelines for prevention that have been developed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

“The Medicare patient rebate for the Check was also set without any consultation with the medical profession as to the necessary thoroughness and detail of the Check.

“As a result, many GPs prefer to see patients under a normal Medicare consultation item when they do a child health assessment, simply because there is less red tape involved and the assessment is based on best practice guidelines, not bureaucratic guidelines.

“The AMA believes there is a need for a proper review and redesign of the program before extending it or introducing new incentives.

“There is little point in creating further demand for these checks if there aren't appropriate referral pathways and an appropriately skilled workforce in the right numbers, such as paediatricians, to deal with cases where developmental problems are identified.

“If Labor wants to link the Healthy Kids Check with payment of the end of year supplement under Family Tax Benefit Part A, it should first consult with the medical profession and gather the evidence to support this approach,” Dr Pesce said.


11 August 2010


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