Joanna Quigley, MD, clinical associate professor and associate medical director for child & adolescent services at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said in an interview she was not surprised the USPSTF recommended screening for anxiety starting at age 8.
That’s when parents and providers see anxiety disorders begin to present or become more problematic, she said.
“It’s also acknowledging the importance of prevention,” she said. “The sooner we can identify these challenges for kids, the sooner we can intervene and have better outcomes for that child across their lifespan.”
Screening gets providers and families in the habit of thinking about these concerns when a child or adolescent comes in for another kind of visit, Dr. Quigley said. Chest pains in a well-child check, for example, may trigger thoughts to consider anxiety later if the child is brought in for a cardiac check for chest pains.
“It creates a culture of awareness that is important as well,” Dr. Quigley said. “I think part of what the task force is trying to do is saying that identifying anxiety can be a precursor to what could turn out to be related to depression or related to ADHD and factors we think about when we think about suicide risk as well.
“We’re seeing an increase in suicide in the younger age group as well, which is a huge concern, “ she noted.
Dr. Quigley said, if these recommendations are adopted after the comment period, pediatricians and family practice providers will likely be doing most of the screening for anxiety, but there may also be a role for the screening in pediatric subspecialty care, such as those treating children with chronic illness and in specialized mental health care.
She added: “This builds on the national conversation going on about the mental health crisis, declared a national emergency in the fall. This deserves attention in continuing the momentum.”