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UF Health pediatrician recommends annual well-child exams to assess health needs

Published: July 6, 2017
Jennifer Knight, MD, performing a well-child exam. View Larger Image

Healthy children generally grow into healthy adults. Every child has unique needs that must be met to remain well. UF Health pediatricians encourage parents to schedule annual physical exams for children of all ages to ensure they are healthy.

“It’s a good opportunity for parents to do an annual physical if the child hasn’t had one,” said Jennifer Knight, MD, medical director of UF Health Pediatrics – North. “A lot of the time if shots aren’t needed, they’re not coming in if a child appears healthy.”

Finding time to schedule a wellness exam can often be a struggle. Knight recommends making an appointment during the summer when family routines are a little more flexible. During these exams, physicians look at the child’s vaccination records, height and weight, and whether their body mass index falls within a normal range.

The Importance of Mental Health

Mental health and overall well-being are also significant parts of the assessment.

“What I’m seeing now is depression and intentional self-harming behavior at younger and younger ages,” Knight said. “Attention deficit disorders are really common, and there’s a lot of anxiety coexisting with that.”

Knight knows adolescents won’t typically come out and say they are depressed, but she advises parents to keep an eye on their child’s mood and behavior. Children experiencing depression will often withdraw from social activities and have emotional outbursts of sadness or anger that seem disproportionate for a situation. In addition, she encourages parents to keep a close eye on social media accounts, as online bullying can play a large role in depression and anxiety.

Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?

Knight believes it’s unrealistic to set strict screen time limits when laptops and tablets are used so heavily in schools, but she does urge parents to allocate time for them to be set aside.

“Turn them off for family dinners and have some boundaries at home,” Knight said. “Having parental controls on what kids can access is more important to me than the amount of screen time they have.”

Keeping Kids Healthy

Children will often come down with a cold or flu when they return to school. Knight suggests children practice good hand hygiene, get the flu shot and consistently get a good night’s sleep to avoid getting sick.

“I can tell you the kids who get the flu shot stay well for the season, for the most part,” Knight said. “It’s also important that kids get good, quality sleep.”

Adults are especially guilty of not getting enough sleep, but it’s really important for the developing mind. Knight encourages families to set a goal of eight to 10 hours of sleep a night for children, even teenagers involved in sports and other activities. It’s also important to stick to a regular sleeping schedule over the summer. This will help children have an easier transition when the new school year starts.

Knight loves working with families to keep children happy and healthy. “There really is something to be said about kids because they have very little ability to advocate for themselves,” she said. “If you can preserve health and foster good habits early, then you get a healthier adult population.”

UF Health Pediatrics – North offers pediatric primary care services for newborns to adolescents and young adults, including well-child care, school and sports physicals, immunizations and preventive health assessments with nutritional and developmental screenings. To schedule an appointment, call 383.1540 or visit UFJaxPrimaryCare.org.


For more information, please contact:
UF Health Media Relations
904-244-3268