Op-Ed: California can’t leave our children behind on missing medical care

The kids are not all right. The more dangerous Delta COVID variant is far from the only health crisis our children are facing. Reports are showing that children are struggling with mental health, food insecurity, and obesity and backsliding on routine vaccinations. In California, we likely don’t know today the full extent of the pediatric health crisis because so many children haven’t accessed the healthcare they need, and their records are incomplete.

Our state entered the pandemic already with fewer than half of Medi-Cal-enrolled children accessing preventive care between 2013 and 2019. In fact, California ranks 40th for all states in providing preventive health services to children, including well-child exams, developmental screenings, mental health screenings, and blood tests for lead exposure. The pandemic accelerated these gaps, resulting in more children missing their well-child visits, vaccinations, and sick care.

In a recent report on healthcare utilization during COVID, data from California’s statewide health data network indicated that the declines in medical office visit volumes for adolescents (25%) and children over five years old (36%) were much larger than for adults (20%) in 2020 compared to 2019. These drops are concerning, given the critical role that regular well-child visits, prevention screenings, and primary care provide in supporting the physical, development, preventive, and mental health of children.

Read the article by Claudia Williams, CEO, Manifest MedEx, and Kristen Golden Testa, Director of California Health Programs, The Children’s Partnership, published in State of Reform.