Many parents and children view the beginning of the school year as a fresh start. It also offers a great time to catch up on children’s routine health examinations to ensure they start the new school year on the right foot. PHMC’s Community Health Data Base has fresh data from the 2008 Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) Household Health Survey examining routine childhood screenings. The survey includes 3,000 interviews about the health and health care of a selected child in the household.

Nearly all children (97.9%) in Southeastern Pennsylvania have seen a doctor in the past year. More than six in ten (63.0%) had a routine exam within the six months that preceded the survey.

The majority of children under 18 in Philadelphia and SEPA have a regular source of health care. While about 95% of children in all age groups do have a regular source of care, older children and children in families with lower incomes were less likely than their peers to have a regular place to go when sick. For example, 7.3% of teens (ages 12–17) below the federal poverty line did not have a regular source of care, representing more than 3,500 children.

Toddlers (ages 0–3 years) were most likely to have a regular source of care: 96.9% of the youngest children had a regular place to go when they were sick, regardless of insurance status. However, older children were less likely to have such a place, especially those lacking health insurance. Among 4–11-year-olds in our area with health insurance, 97.2% have a regular source of medical care. Among uninsured children in this age group, only 90.7% have such a place.  The gap between the insured and the uninsured widens in the teen years. While 95.2% of insured teens in SEPA have a regular source of care, only about eight in ten (80.2%) of uninsured teens have a regular source of care.

For most children, their regular source of care is a doctor’s office. Among toddlers above the federal poverty line, nearly nine out of ten (89.3%) go to a doctor’s office, while about seven in ten (69.0%) toddlers in households below the federal poverty line go to a doctor’s office for their regular source of care. Similar differences are seen across age groups.

Children and Eye Examinations

For many children, a comprehensive eye exam should be a routine event every two years, and for some children annual eye exams may be necessary1. Only about four in ten (38.1%) SEPA children ages 4–17 had an eye exam in the past year. A greater percentage of insured children visited an eye doctor than did uninsured children (38.3% and 31.3%, respectively).

For nearly three in four (72.3%) children in SEPA foregoing eye exams in the past year, lack of need for one was cited as the main reason. For 4% of SEPA children who did not see an eye doctor, (representing approximately 16,000 children), the main barrier to care was cost. This reason was more common for teens than for younger children.

As we look forward to a new school year, this is a great time to make sure children are up-to-date on back-to-school checkups and routine exams. A screening now may help prevent problems later.

For more information on back-to-school checkups and routine exams, or about the Community Health Data Base, please contact Rose Malinowski Weingartner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 215.985.2572.


PHMC Data Opens
New Area of Health Research

Researchers exploring a variety of health-related topics mine the data found in the Household Health Survey from PHMC’s Community Health Data Base (CHDB). One such researcher is Dr. Nirav Patel, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center’s Division of Sleep Medicine, who says, “CHDB is a great resource of primary data to understand a health or health-service issue in the region of Southeast Pennsylvania and lends itself well to professionals and students. The database can serve several important functions, including program development and evaluation, planning of health services, and as pilot data for grant applications.”

Patel directs the Portable Sleep Monitoring and Commercial Drivers Program at Penn’s Sleep Center and conducts research on public health concerns associated with insufficient sleep and sleep-related disorders. He uses CHDB data as a key component of his studies on sleep quality in the Philadelphia region. In 2006, Patel worked with CHDB to add the first question on sleep to the Household Health Survey. In 2008, thanks to Dr. Patel, the Household Health Survey asked participants three sleep-related questions. “With the data from the 2006 CHDB survey, my research team conducted an epidemiologic analysis to investigate potential socio-ecological influences upon sleep,” says Patel. “This formed the basis of a grant from the National Institutes of Health Resource Center for Minority Aging Research for a pilot project in Philadelphia.”