The days of growing up visiting a family doctor have long passed
for most families, as more and more parents choose to bring their
children to pediatricians instead. Although both pediatricians and
family doctors are trained to provide care to children, studies
have shown these different specialties recommend different
prevention and treatment strategies to their patients.
In choosing a doctor for your child, remember
"choosing" is the operative word. It's a choice, so make it an
Pediatricians, because they focus solely on the care of
children, are more likely to be aware of developments in children's
medication and care, says Dr. Gary Freed, lead author of a study
about pediatric health care trends and director of the Child Health
Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan Health
System. But family doctors are more likely to discuss domestic
abuse issues or smoking cessation with teens who smoke.
"Really it's a philosophical issue for parents," says Freed. "Do
you want a doctor trained to focus on the child or a physician who
will care for the whole family and have a broader, less deep
About 90 percent of young children see pediatricians, both
because parents are choosing this more and because more family
doctors are choosing to focus solely on adults. A previous study
found that family physicians, perhaps because they're seeing fewer
children, were less likely than pediatricians to believe they were
competent to discuss with parents the conditions in the newborn
screening panels and less likely to recommend the flu vaccine for
pediatric patients with asthma, says Freed.
In the past, the trend was to move adolescents into family
practices, but now the majority of teens stay with their
pediatrician. "Perhaps because there's been a greater emphasis on
training pediatricians in the care of adolescents, so they likely
feel more comfortable and competent," Freed says.
When it comes to choosing the best doctor for your child, Freed
says it's really up to you. "Each one has its own thing that the
other doesn't do. The key question is what the family wants and
what is best for the children."
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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