A healthy start starts here.

Why a Primary Care Provider Is Crucial to Your Child’s Health

To help children get off to a healthy start, parents need to have a primary doctor for them. A primary care provider (PCP) will take care of your family’s medical needs.

Your PCP will diagnose and treat your child when they are sick. They can help prevent a health problem by checking your child during well-child visits. Your PCP can also help guide you on important decisions such as whether your child needs to go to the emergency room.

Developing a strong relationship with a PCP is an important step to staying as healthy as possible. Together, you and your doctor can help your child start out healthy, avoid diseases and enjoy a healthier, happier life.

How a Primary Care Provider Can Help

A primary care provider will give you a sense of security and comfort about your child’s health. When you have a primary care provider, you can have regular checkups for your child with someone who knows your child’s health history. Every child needs well-child visits to make sure they are healthy and developing normally. Regular visits to your PCP gives you the chance to:

  • Ask questions about your child’s health or development.
  • Talk about your family's needs and concerns.
  • Keep up with important information like shot records, test results and appointment times.

With regular visits, your PCP has a chance to review your child’s medical history as well as the family health history with you. It is also a great time to talk about any concerns that have come up in between doctors’ visits. This is called interval history, and addressing interval concerns can decrease the chance of having to go to the emergency room.

Get information on how to find a PCP.

Avoid Unnecessary Emergency Room Visits

When your child is sick or injured, you need to decide how serious the problem is and how soon to get medical care. Your options include making an appointment with your doctor, visiting an urgent care clinic or going to an emergency room right away.

The emergency room should only be used in the case of a true emergency. If you aren’t sure if you have an emergency, call your primary care provider. If you can’t reach your child’s PCP, most PCP or pediatrician offices have an after-hours answering service. A physician or nurse with the answering service can provide advice and recommend whether the child needs to go to the emergency room.

If an emergency room trip is needed, the family will probably be advised to follow up with the child’s doctor soon. This follow-up appointment is important to make sure the child is continuing to get better.

Get more information on emergency room visits.

Additional Resources

TennCare Kids is a full program of checkups and health care services for children from birth through age 20 who have TennCare. Get more information on TennCare.

If you have a concern about your child’s mental health, contact your child’s primary care provider.

For simple steps families can take to get healthier—including tips for healthy eating, exercise, good sleeping habits and dental health—check out Healthier Tennessee’s Small Starts for Families tool.