Back to school check-ups recommended by Sanford Health

Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota officials are encouraging families to visit for annual check-ups before the fall semester gets underway.

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BEMIDJI -- The new school year is fast approaching and Sanford Health officials are encouraging parents to bring their children in for a check-up before they start opening textbooks or practicing in sports.

"One thing we always like to focus on this year is parents getting their children scheduled for sports physicals so they're not running into issues during those first practices," said Colleen Swank, Sanford vice president of clinics and a pediatrician. "Sometimes everyone does it all at once so we want to make sure we have capacity for everyone."

Lisa Johnson, Sanford Health's director of women and children services, said along with sports physicals, this is a good time for general check-ups too.

"We'll be looking at immunizations and make sure they're up to date with those and also see if there are other resources they need, maybe from a mental health standpoint, we can get them referred over for that," Johnson said.

Swank said it's especially important this year, as children potentially missed a check-up in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Swank also said a potential check-up is also an opportunity to get a vaccine for COVID-19.


"One of the messages we're telling families is that we're seeing the vaccine is safe with children and is very effective," Swank said. "Getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid having some of the disruptions in learning and sports that we saw last year."

The Pfizer vaccine is currently authorized for children 12 and older.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the following data shows how many children from ages 12-17 have received vaccines:

In Beltrami County, 713 in the 12-15 age range have received one dose and 542 have been given a full vaccination series. For the 16-17 age range, 453 have received their first dose and 387 have received both.

For the state as a whole, 113,417 in the 12-15 age range have received one dose and 96,344 have a complete vaccination series. In the 16-17 age group, 72,837 have been given one dose and 66,549 have finished the vaccine series.

"We also need to remember it's not just COVID, we're going into a potential flu season and there are other respiratory illnesses," Johnson said. "It's hard to say what that will look like this year, so families should remember hand-washing etiquette and if their child has a fever they shouldn't be going to school."

Johnson also touched on the importance of healthy screen time after a year of digital education.

"Over the past year, with a lot of schools transitioning to at-home learning, screen time for kids has really been experiencing an increase over what the normal recommendations are," Johnson said. "So families are encouraged to put in a limit on screen time. Set up routines for kids, too, such as healthy eating and making sure they go outside. Those things that may have been limited in the past year."

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