Healthy Kids Check scrapped but is it a good or bad move?

Healthy Kids Check: worthwhile or waste of time?
Healthy Kids Check: worthwhile or waste of time? Photo: Getty

During last week's budget, the federal government announced that they are scrapping Medicare funding for a comprehensive health check for children aged three to five

Despite the fact that around 154,000 children used the program last year, the decision to axe the service is driven by cost. The Government expects to save $144 million over the next four years by binning it.

The response from parents has been polarizing.  

For Tahlisa Langham, the comprehensive health check for her daughter was well worthwhile.

"If it wasn't for the health check, I don't know how long it would have been before we figured out our daughter had vision and hearing issues, especially as we had been previously told by other doctors and optometrists that her hearing and vision was fine" she says.

As a result of the health check and subsequent testing, Tahlisa's daughter was prescribed glasses for astigmatism and near sightedness. She was also diagnosed with Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (EVAS) and wears hearing aids.  

Louise Ware's son was given a clean bill of health at his check. However, she was also impressed with the service.  

"The check took about an hour. My son's eyesight, weight, height, and speech was tested," she says.  "The doctor also checked my son's teeth, listened to his heart, checked his ears, and asked if his testes had descended."

Ware believes that the health check was a great opportunity to identify previously unidentified or unnoticed issues and feels that families will now miss out on this.

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Not everyone agrees though.

Narelle Young felt that her daughter's health check was a waste of time.

"My daughter's shyness and lack of relationship with the doctor meant she would not communicate at all," she says. "The doctor relied on me accurately and honestly answering all his questions, and was unable to assess her speech, weight and vision."

Young says that selective mutism and delayed speech were never raised as a concern during this health check.   

"It was comments from other people such as her kindy gym teacher and speech therapist that led me to research selective mutism and start intensive work with her to prepare for school."

Eddie Skye feels much the same. Months of effort trying to tee up an appointment for her sons seemed pointless when it came to the check. 

"The doctor didn't do half the tests they were supposed to," she says. "There was no vision or hearing checks and no teeth checks. It was basically just a height and weight check and was a total waste of time and effort."

So what do the GP's say?

Dr Sam Hay believes the scraping of this health check is not good news for families.

"As far as I'm concerned this incentive is one of the best that has come out by the Government in recent years," he says. It has formalised a structured screening process for children prior to going to school and ensures that all are checked for development in all areas."

"It also helps us in reinforcing the need to have your immunisations before school."

In terms of his own practice, Hay states that there have been great health benefits in doing this check.

"There's great value in reassurance and knowing that your child is fit, healthy and growing normally," he says. "Likewise, there is reassurance in knowing that there is something wrong but getting it managed early."

Sonja Walker, director at children's health service, Kids First, echoes Hay's sentiments.

"As heath professionals we really see the value of this check and it's a real shame that this safety net for parents is now being removed," she says. 

"There are no negatives in getting your child checked and, as parents, we are not always aware of a child's developmental milestones, especially if it's our first child."

Walker also highlights the additional strain that the scrapping of this scheme will have on community health services.

"There is still going to be strong parental demand for screening and support yet the avenue to this has now gone from being a three way highway to a one way road," she concludes.

What do you think? Is the Kids Health Check program worthwhile or do you agree with the move to scrap it?

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