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Scrapping the Healthy Kids Check: a lost opportunity

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Maintaining child preventive health and developmental assessments will challenge general practice from 1 November

In May, the federal government announced in the 2015–16 Budget that the Healthy Kids Check (HKC) Medicare items will be discontinued from 1 November 2015,1 citing underperformance, cost blowouts and duplication of state and territory programs.

The HKC was introduced into general practice in 2008, policy that reflected advances in neuroscience (eg, the evolution of brain architecture, critical time points for development and the benefits of early intervention) and significant health shifts towards prevention. Uptake of the health assessment was slow (16% of eligible children in its first year2) and beset by argument about a lack of evidence for some of its mandatory components3 and by scaremongering about labelling 3-year-olds with mental health diagnoses.4 In the ensuing negative debate, it was easy to forget major barriers to preventive health care before the HKC: sick child consultations, poor remuneration, lack of time, resources and training,5 and the ever-increasing demands of chronic disease management in an ageing population. Nevertheless, over the next 7 years, uptake of the HKC climbed to 50%,2 as practice…