A national pediatrician group advised in a new set of guidelines that all children, and not just those with high risks of such conditions, should undergo testing for high cholesterol, depression, and HIV.
The new American Association of Pediatrics guidelines cover a list of conditions and illnesses that children should receive tests for from birth to the age of 21, as recent studies have indicated many health concerns experienced in adulthood could have warning signs early in one’s life. The AAP hopes to prevent these diseases and conditions as early as possible to eliminate the need for medication or treatment going forward.
For example, suicide is now one of the top causes of death among adolescents, which has pushed the AAP to recommend children to be screened for depression from the age of 11 onward. And as the high rate of obesity in younger individuals is becoming more of a problem, the academy also recommended screening for high cholesterol for kids aged 9 to 11. Doctors suggest that younger children with elevated levels of cholesterol should undergo lifestyles changes, including, but not limited to exercise and dietary changes.
“We do see high cholesterol in kids as young as 9 or 10 — it’s not just adults anymore,” said Nicklaus Children’s Hospital pediatrician Amanda Porro. “In some cases, we need to take a deeper dive and have the family work with a nutritionist.”
As for HIV, the AAP recommends that young people be screened for the virus between ages 16 and 18. Any teens who admit to being sexually active should also be screened for HIV. Doctors will also be advised to be more proactive when asking young people about their sexual activity, given that one in four new HIV victims are aged between 13 and 24.
“We know from national surveys that adolescents are having sex and are not good about having protection,” said Children’s National Health System medical director Dr. Lee Beers. “They don’t think long term.”