Child Health Surveillance and Screening: A Critical Review of the Evidence

Summary information

Publishing date: 
Reference number: 
Available in print: 
No - PDF only
Further information: 


Child Health Surveillance and Screening: A Critical Review of the Evidence was undertaken to provide a systematic review of the available evidence for screening and surveillance, topic by topic. The review considers children from birth to eighteen years of age; it does not include prenatal screening activities.

Although the early detection of health and other problems in children is a worthy goal, this review found there is little evidence for the effectiveness of screening programs in many domains. There are scant data about cost effectiveness. There are major issues of program quality, monitoring of compliance with referrals for assessment, and whether facilities exist in many communities for assessment and follow up. In some cases, there is little evidence that therapy alters outcomes. These issues are outlined in relevant chapters on topics.

This report should not be seen as diminishing the importance of attempts at early detection. Rather it provides evidence that perhaps there needs to be a rethink how we go about this. A discussion of these issues is to be found in Chapter 9.

It should be noted that as clinical guidelines were not developed, this review has not been subject to the wide external consultation usually associated with NHMRC guideline development.

The review is only available on the NHMRC website.

The Child and Youth Health Inter-governmental Partnership, a subcommittee of the National Public Health Partnership (NPHP), has developed a supplementary document to the child health screening and surveillance report. This document outlines the next steps in taking the review recommendations forward. It is available from the NPHP website at

The findings within this report represent those of the authors of this report, based on their critical review of the literature up to August 2000 and informed by comment from the project’s Reference Group and a limited number of experts in each field.

Related information: