Preventative health services are a pediatric health care cornerstone, which strives to promote health and prevent illness and injury. In Israel, Maternal Child Health Clinics (MCHC) provide these well child services for ages 0–6 years. MCHC care includes physician visits; however, the physician’s role is not well defined. The study purpose was to provide a basis for setting policies that determine the role of physicians in the provision of MCHC services. To get broad input we included MCHC stakeholders - parents, MCHC physicians, non-MCHC physicians and MCHC nurses, specifically to obtain insights regarding the MCHC physician role and to characterize the stakeholder demographics, service utilization, and practice patterns.
Professional groups completed self-administered written questionnaires (n = 398). Parents were interviewed during MCHC visits using a structured questionnaire (n = 1052). All provided demographic data, service characteristics and agreement with ten potential MCHC physician roles - Physical Examination, Abnormal Health Condition Detection, Developmental Screening, Anticipatory Guidance, Parent-Child Interaction Counseling, MCHC Staff Advice, Children-at-Risk Detection, Growth Surveillance, Vaccination Counseling, and Inter-physician Communication.
The study findings seem to indicate a true shortage of MCHC physicians. The median age of MCHC physicians was significantly higher than both non-MCHC physicians and MCHC nurses. There was agreement among stakeholders regarding some roles (Physical Examination, Developmental Screening and Detection of Abnormal Health Conditions) but not others. Most parents reported having at least one MCHC physician encounter. Parents who did not visit the physician were younger and had fewer children.
Stakeholders view MCHC physicians as integral to MCHC care. Roles traditionally regarded as part of primary prevention were less likely to be attributed to physicians than screening roles considered secondary prevention.
Updating and standardization of the MCHC physician role is needed along with a national strategy to recruit and train MCHC physicians.to ensure optimal pediatric preventive health care in Israel.