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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State Research: Developmental Screening Rates Rising, Still Room to Improve

Health care professionals are doing a better job of screening young children for potential developmental disabilities, but in most states, there is still a need to improve efforts to identify children who could benefit from early interventions, according to research led by Georgia State University School of Public Health.

The study found that 33.3 percent of parents and other caregivers of children from birth to five years of age reported that a health care provider asked them to complete a questionnaire to screen for signs of potential developmental delays or disabilities in 2011 – 2012, up from 23 percent in 2007 – 2008.

Such screenings are important because they allow for early detection of potential problems. Many learning delays and other developmental challenges are not identified until children start school, when they are harder to treat and children are at higher risk of falling behind.

The findings are published in the article “Caretaker Awareness of Health Care Provided Developmental Screening: Increases from 2007 to 2012,” published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. Dr. Brian Barger, a research assistant professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, is the lead author.

[Photo: Dr. Brian Barger]

The study analyzed data from two collection periods of the National Surveys of Children’s Health – in 2007 – 2008 and 2011 – 2012 – representing children from across the United States. Prior studies of early childhood screening have queried medical professionals, who may feel pressure to over-report their activity, the authored noted.

The current study may under-report how often screenings are conducted because parents and care-givers may not always recall if they filled out a survey along with other medical paperwork, or because a medical provider may have orally questioned them. Nevertheless, the authors wrote that the current study helps to confirm that early childhood screenings are becoming more common, but still fall far short of being universal. (Only two states, Massachusetts and North Carolina, had more than 50 percent of parents and other caregivers report that their children were screened for disabilities and other developmental delays.)

The co-authors are Dr. Andrew Roach, associate professor of health management and policy, and Mr. Gabriel Moreno, an AZLEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) Fellow at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson.

Dr. Barger and Mr. Roach conduct research at the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State. The Center is a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), part of a network of centers across the United States that offer training and other resources for people with disabilities, their families, state and local governments and others to pursue the vision of a nation where Americans with disabilities can participate fully in their communities.