Health Notes

Physicals an Important Part of your Back to School Routine

by Katina Granger on July 10, 2017

While it’s something you may not see on your official back-to-school checklist, an annual physical exam may be the most important step in ensuring a healthy, successful start to the school year.

“It’s a good time to touch base,” said Dr. Jessica McCool, a family medicine provider at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Council Bluffs.

“Annual well visits give us the opportunity to do so much in the way of teaching and education and see that are they growing and developing normally,” said Dr. Matt Gibson, a pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency. “We discuss and look at and what can we do to set parents and children up for success.”

Nebraska State Law requires school physical exams before entering kindergarten and seventh grade. And while Iowa also now requires the meningitis booster before a student’s senior year, both Iowa and Nebraska require immunization against:

Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis
Measles, Mumps and Rubella
Hepatitis B
Varicella (chickenpox)

Providers may also discuss the importance of the HPV vaccine starting around ages 11 or 12.

“We usually see kids come in for their kindergarten physicals because they need a set of immunizations,” said Dr. McCool. “Incoming 7th graders also have a physical because they need two immunizations. A lot of middle school and high school kids will come in yearly for sports physicals, and the next set of required exams would be for seniors and college-age kids who need a meningitis vaccine.”

Dr. Jessica McCool, Council Bluffs family medicine
Jessica McCool, MD
Dr. Matt Gibson, Omaha pediatrician
Matthew Gibson, MD

Aside from vaccines, annual physicals are an important checkpoint for doctors to review your child’s:

• Family history
• Personal health during the past year
• Basic eye exam
• Basic hearing test
• Development and growth
• Vaccination history
• Overall physical health

“We check your child’s blood pressure, do an eye screening, and talk about how things are going with school,” said Dr. McCool.

“All those visits are still really important because we want to make sure not only that their health is being taken care of and their questions are being answered, but that they are developing the way they need to be,” said Dr. Gibson. “It also gives us a chance to touch base with families and parents and see what questions they may have. As kids grow their needs change and the problems that they encounter become extremely different and it’s our chance to have that point of contact and ask how they are doing, what we can help with, what can we talk about, and how can we best serve you.”

Touching base with your child’s physician on an annual basis also sends an important message to kids about protecting and preserving their good health.

“If they’ve been seeing a physician once a year and have a good relationship with a health care provider,” explained Dr. McCool, “as they grow your children might be more willing to go back to a provider to bring up their health issues because they feel comfortable doing.”

You can help a child in need start the school year off on the right foot by donating new school supplies to the KETV 7 Can Help Kids/Salvation Army Back-to-School Backpack Program, proudly sponsored by Methodist Health System.


Katina Granger is a blogger and PR/Social Media Specialist for Methodist Health System.
Contact Katina at
Katina Granger


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