All children should be screened for depression, HIV and cholesterol, according to the American Academy of Pediatricians. The group recommends the screenings from the age of 9 years old.
The recommendations have been published as a guideline for pediatricians in the journal Pediatrics on December 7. The authors argue that all children should be screened for cholesterol, HIV and depression, not only those who are at higher risk. They believe that all children should be screened for cholesterol between 9 and 11-years old.
Screening only the kids with a higher risk based on the family’s history is missing too many children with high cholesterol. Government data shows that almost 20 percent of American teenagers have alarming cholesterol levels which is often a result of obesity and could lead to heart disease.
If detected in time, high cholesterol can be treated with lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, instead of medicine, as it is the case for adults.
Besides cholesterol, pediatricians are saying that children’s mental health should be assessed every year from ages 11 to 21. They argue that depression often starts in middle school or high school. More than that, it should be taken into account that a leading cause of deaths among teenagers is suicide.
The National Institute of Mental Health shows that 11 percent of children between 12 and 17-years-old had at least one major episode of depression in 2013. That accounts 2.6 million children. Just as with most of conditions, if detected early, depression is easier to be treated, even without medication.
Specialists argue that screenings are necessary since depression might not manifest as parents expect so it might not be that obvious for them. Symptoms of depression can have many faces, such as poor appetite or sleep problems.
Regarding HIV, doctors recommend screenings for children aged 16 to 18. Until now, screenings were targeted at children who used drugs or were sexually active but this leaded to social stigma – a factor that would be removed by universal screenings.
Children and young adults from 13 to 24 years old make up almost 25 percent of new HIV cases at national level. Since HIV can be treated almost as a chronic disease, the faster it is detected the more chances for patients to live a normal life for more time.
Doctors also believe that universal HIV screenings would raise awareness regarding sexually transmitted diseases among all teenagers.
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