Health Screenings in Elementary Schools Are Failing Children

By Allie Phillips

This happened to me
In elementary and middle school, there are always screenings for children, and I’m sure
you had to do some yourself. These can include hearing, sight, scoliosis, dental, etc. They are
vital for relaying information back to families after screenings, whether it be good news, bad
news, or just to make habitual changes at home.

I got screened in 5th grade for scoliosis. They make you bend down, extend your arms to the ground, and check your spine for curvature. At the end of the screening, I was said to be normal. After a few years passed, I went to a quick
clinic for a sports physical. While I was there, they informed me that I had scoliosis and told me
to follow up with my pediatrician. My pediatrician looked and said I had scoliosis, so he
referred me to the University of Virginia Children Orthopedics. They informed me that my
scoliosis was about 2 degrees from being braced, so I luckily never needed bracing or surgery. I
was screened every year for scoliosis in elementary school, and they were never able to catch my
scoliosis. My diagnosis of scoliosis was not severe, but it was not mild. If these screenings were
able to catch my scoliosis 2 years or even 1 year earlier, I could’ve made environmental
adjustments that maybe would have minimized my curve. Scoliosis worsens as you
are growing so getting this screening while children are still growing is of upmost importance.

My story is not unique, here’s the problem
These screenings, whether it be scoliosis, sight, dental, or hearing, are inaccurate and
undependable. Children either seem to be over-diagnosed or misdiagnosed. Approximately
36 out of 75 children that get referred to audiologists are not lacking in hearing (1). The
screenings often give a pass or fail, and these are inaccurate for scoliosis, hearing, and sight tests.
Even though you or your child may have “passed” does not mean you have a perfect spine,
perfect hearing, or perfect vision. This can lead parents to falsely believe that their child does not
need any additional treatment (2). Since children are mostly in school during the year, their
parents might not be fully understanding the health issues that their children could be experiencing.

Parents often opt-in on these screenings, and they depend on them to give accurate results.
However, these screenings have never been truly accurate and dependable (3). With all that
being said, these issues could be avoided by gaining more access to pediatric care. Rather than
depending on screenings, parents should make an appointment with their pediatric doctor
and get their child screened and checked out. If unable to receive this care, there are
organizations (listed in further reading) that work to give this quality care to those who
cannot usually receive it.

Here is a non-profit working to solve the problem
The Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (VAFCC) is aware of this issue
and is working to provide care to families that have received inaccurate health care (4).
Not only do they provide care for individuals that have received unfair health attention, but they
also provide care for underprivileged children and families, regardless of their ability to pay fees
and bills. The inability to afford health care is also a large portion of why parents depend on school health screenings, so with the VAFCC offering quality care for those regardless of pay, it makes a huge difference in health for families. If you or someone you know is unable to afford medical care, this is a good place to get quality care for your family, even while getting
basic health screenings that are offered within accessible and affordable clinics.

Here is what you can do to help, right now
To ensure your kid is healthy rather than depending on the school screenings, you can
make an appointment with your pediatric doctor to get these screenings. Your doctor will be able
to give you more quality care than school screenings, and if there is something that needs to
be corrected, such as eyes or hearing, the doctor will be able to refer to another trusted doctor
that can correct these issues before they worsen. If families are unable to afford these expensive
appointments, you can make an appointment with the VAFCC that was previously mentioned or
another organization that achieves the same goals. The goal is to ensure all children’s health
with the best quality of care possible.


  1. https://www.amplifonusa.com/hearing-loss/blog/school-hearing-screenings
  2. https://www.optometrists.org/childrens-vision/vision-for-school/are-school-vision-
  3. https://amplifyeyecarechatt.com/vision-therapy/are-school-vision-screenings-reliable/
  4. https://www.vafreeclinics.org

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