Millions of infants, children, and adolescents in the United States did not receive key clinical preventive services, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Supplement.

Clinical preventive services are various forms of important medical or dental care—from prenatal breastfeeding counseling, newborn hearing screening and follow-up, developmental screening, lead screening, vision screening, hypertension screening, human papillomavirus vaccination, tobacco use screening and cessation assistance, chlamydia screening and reproductive health services that support healthy development, as well as use of dental care and preventive dental services. These services are delivered by doctors, dentists, nurses, and allied health providers in clinical settings. These services prevent and detect conditions and diseases in their earlier, more treatable stages, significantly reducing the risk of illness, disability, early death, and expensive medical care.

The findings offer a baseline assessment of the use of selected services prior to 2012, before or shortly after implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Among the findings of the most recent report, in 2009, more than half (56%) of children and adolescents did not visit the dentist in the past year and nearly nine of 10 (86%) children and adolescents did not receive a dental sealant or a topical fluoride application in the past year.

“We must protect the health of all children and ensure that they receive recommended screenings and services. Together, parents and the public health and healthcare communities can work to ensure that children have health insurance and receive vital preventive services,” said Stuart K. Shapira, MD, PhD, chief medical officer and associate director for science in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Increased use of clinical preventive services could improve the health of infants, children, and teens and promote healthy lifestyles that will enable them to achieve their full potential.”

The report reveals large disparities in the receipt of clinical preventive services. For example, uninsured children are not as likely as insured children to receive these services.

This report is the second of a series of periodic reports from CDC to monitor and report on progress made in increasing the use of clinical preventive services to improve population health since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“The Affordable Care Act requires new health insurance plans to provide certain clinical preventive services at no additional cost—with no copays or deductibles,” said Lorraine Yeung, MD, MPH, medical epidemiologist with CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Parents need to know that many clinical preventive services for their children, such as screening and vaccination, are available for free with many health plans.”

CDC has a long history of monitoring the use of clinical preventive services to provide public health agencies, health care providers, healthcare organizations, and their partners with information needed to plan and implement programs that increase use of these services and improve the health of the US population. CDC documents the potential benefits of selected clinical preventive services for infants, children and adolescents; the challenges related to their underuse; and effective collaborative strategies to improve use.