Well-Child Visits and Screenings: Earlier Is Better

a pediatrician listens to a baby's heart using a stethoscope

neural connections are formed in a child’s brain every second

One million. That’s the staggering number of neural connections that are formed per second in a child’s brain during his or her first few years.

The development of a child’s brain – and his or her accompanying developmental milestones – is a remarkable and profoundly significant process. Increasingly, research is shedding an ever-brighter light on the importance of both developmental surveillance and screening in children from birth to 5 years old. That’s why one of our primary areas of focus is ensuring that families are connected to routine well child visits to support each child’s health and development.

That’s why one of our primary areas of focus is early identification and intervention through developmental and behavioral screening, support, and treatment for our youngest children.

Developmental delays impact one in every six very young children

1 in 1

children under the age of 3 have a developmental delay

One in six children under the age of three have a developmental delay, with estimates that more than 80% of these children do not receive the vital early intervention services that can help them close that developmental gap.

Well-child visits provide an opportunity to track growth and development (e.g., developmental screenings to gauge milestones, social behaviors, and learning); discuss concerns about a child’s health; and receive screenings and scheduled vaccinations to prevent illnesses.

Ensuring that children complete their well-child visits is crucial to supporting children on the path to good health and setting them up to be successful in life.

There is still much work to be done to improve system coordination and make sure every child gets critical linkages to services. Additional work can be done to better share results and data within and across systems such as healthcare and education. By sharing important information across systems, a child’s full range of needs can be better and more seamlessly addressed.

a young boy goes down a playground slide on his tummy, face first

First 5’s Action Plan

Well-child visits, screenings and linkage to services play critically important roles in helping to achieve our vision that, “All children reach their full potential.” Partnering with our community stakeholders, we are making these visits and linkages a five-year priority goal, and helping families get the most of well-child visits and screenings by taking the following actions:

a young girl with pigtails gets a vaccine shot in her arm

Leveraging data to prioritize needs, and with partners, setting a community target for the completion of well-child visits among the Medi-Cal population. This includes identifying and removing barriers that prevent families from accessing these services.


Ensuring well-child visits, linkage to health homes, and screenings are included in some form in all First 5-funded partner scopes of work.


Integrating family voices and empowering families to participate in discussion and decision-making about well-child visits, screenings, and interventions.


Promoting the earliest possible screenings and linkage to services by broadening and improving messaging to parents and other providers about the importance of well-child visits and screenings.


Expanding the use of the OC Children’s Screening Registry.


Continuing to advocate for continuous Medi-Cal enrollment for children through their 5th birthday.

Detect & Connect OC

First 5 Orange County is a founding member of Detect & Connect OC, which is a collaboration of organizations working on the critical issues of increasing well-child visits, early identification of developmental delays, and intervention.

Our vision is to ensure all children in Orange County receive timely, recommended developmental screenings in accordance with national, evidence-based guidelines, and are connected to resources and interventions as early as possible.

Foundational Principals

Detect & Connect OC has five foundational principles:


Focus on a Targeted Population to Start


Engage Physicians Early


Provide Adequate Training, Technical Assistance, Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement for Providers


Simplify Inter-Agency Coordination


Identify and Coordinate Systems-Level Champions

a mom comforts her young baby, holding him on her chest
A pediatrician examines a happy baby with a stethoscope

Agencies Involved

  • American Academy of Pediatrics – Orange County Chapter
  • Anaheim Elementary School District
  • CalOptima
  • CHOC Children’s
  • Child Guidance Center
  • Comfort Connection, Regional Center of Orange County
  • Early Childhood OC
  • First 5 Orange County
  • Help Me Grow Orange County
  • Orange County Department of Education
  • Orange County Health Care Agency
  • Orange County Social Services Administration
  • Pretend City
  • Santa Ana Unified School District
  • State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Orange County Office

Working Groups

Detect & Connect OC has a steering group and four working groups to advance our vision:


Steering Group

  • Actively champion a shared vision
  • Work together and build linkages with community partners to remove system barriers
  • Commit to the effective use of resources and programs in the community
  • Focus on parents and primary care physicians

Data Sharing & Technology Working Group

Prioritize and execute opportunities to increase data sharing across systems


Systems of Care Working Group

Work with community partners to identify and develop strategies to link more children to support and address gaps within the system of care


Provider Support Working Group

Support pediatric and family practice providers with implementation of screenings, and align provider/member incentives to reimbursement and incentive opportunities


Shared Messaging & Education Working Group

Disseminate shared messages and targeted provider and parent outreach

For information on how to get involved with Detect & Connect OC, contact Lisa Burke at lisa.burke@cfcoc.ocgov.com.