This August, families are preparing for a new school year. For many parents, that means going to the doctor to get our kids their required checkups. A yearly well-child visit is a great first step in keeping our children healthy, but is it enough?

Children deserve the best health care they can get. This begins with having a “medical home,” a place where your doctor knows your whole health story. I have been a primary care doctor in DC since 2012, now working at Community of Hope’s Conway Health and Resource Center. Every day I see why every family should have a medical home.

When you have a medical home, you have a relationship with a trusted doctor who knows you. They know your history and keep track of your conditions and medications. People of all ages can benefit from having a medical home, especially children.

In a medical home, your doctor can get to know the big picture of your family’s health. For example, if I am helping a mom manage her diabetes, I know to look for signs of it in her kids. If one child has asthma, I will watch the brothers and sisters for symptoms as well.

Medical homes also help guide you through the complex health care system. Does your family have many doctors who provide dialysis, physical therapy or other specialty care? It can be a lot to manage. A medical home can help you keep track of it all.

A medical home also encourages you to keep coming back to the same doctor over time. Here at Community of Hope, we have some adult patients who have been seeing us since they were children. Some are now bringing their kids to see us, too. In fact, we now have a baby whose mother and grandmother have been our patients too. Those long-term relationships make it easier to give and receive great care.

Sadly, less than half of DC children have a medical home, according to the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. Of children whose family income is below the federal poverty line, only 38% are getting the complete care they deserve.

What’s the alternative? For families who don’t have a regular doctor, parents may take their children to the emergency room when a problem comes up. In the case of asthma, a good doctor might have spotted symptoms and offered care before it became an emergency.

So as you schedule those back-to-school checkups, maybe now is the time to find your kids a medical home. As a doctor, I urge you to find a provider who will take the time to get to know your family. Community health centers like Community of Hope are a great place to start. We can get you scheduled within just a few days. While you’re here, check out our dentistry and other services. We are accepting new patients of all ages, and hope you will come visit us.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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