Use of ambulatory care services by children from low-income families has increased substantially since the early 1960s. However, in few studies have attempts been made to disaggregate physician visits according to type (eg, preventive v diagnosis and treatment). In this study, receipt of preventive care (including physical, vision, and dental examinations), based on a sample of 16,838 children aged 5 to 16 years from the 1982 National Health Interview Survey, was examined. The results indicate that children in families with incomes below the poverty level, especially those without Medicaid insurance, are much less likely to receive routine preventive care on a timely basis. Poor school-aged children with Medicaid are much more likely to receive timely preventive care than their counterparts without Medicaid coverage. The effectiveness of preventive care for children is discussed and suggestions for improving access to routine preventive care are presented.

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