2021

72% of young children in California are screened for age-appropriate development, compared with 29.5% a decade ago


Despite gains, research led by Dr. Ninez Ponce, show disparities in screening rates for children ages 1 to 5 across various groups.

doctor helping young child patient

According to a new policy brief published by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health's UCLA Center for Health Policy Researchled by Dr. Ninez Poncedevelopmental assessments for young children ages 1 through 5 increased from 2007 through 2018. Whether health care providers asked parents about developmental concerns also increased.

The study, funded by First 5 California, used data from UCLA CHPR’s California Health Interview Survey. Findings showed a significant increase from 2007 to 2018 — 72% of California parents reported that their child was assessed for possible developmental delays in 2018 compared to 29.5% in 2007, and 64.3% of parents stated that a doctor or other professional asked if they had concerns about their children’s learning, development, or behavior in 2018 compared to 47.2% in 2007.

“The study’s findings show promising improvements in developmental screening rates in the state over the past several years, but more work must be done to increase access among at-risk communities,” said Camille Maben, Executive Director of First 5 California. “Findings from this report identify opportunities for outreach to health care and preschool settings to boost screening rates across California. Improved screening rates will support better health outcomes for all young children.”

The brief looked at the prevalence of screenings across demographic characteristics, and found differences by household income, insurance type, parental education, as well as race and ethnicity.

  • Parents were more likely to report that their children received developmental screenings and were asked about developmental concerns if they had higher household incomes, employment-based insurance, a usual source of medical care, higher educational levels, spoke only English at home, and identified race/ethnicity as non-Hispanic White.​
  • By contrast, low rates of screening were found for families with Medi-Cal insurance, without a usual source of medical care, with incomes less than 300% of federal poverty level, educational attainment of a High School diploma or less, reported race/ethnicity of Hispanic or African American, and dual language learner children in the home. Parents identifying as Asian also reported less frequently being asked about developmental concerns.

The brief cites support for universal developmental surveillance and screening as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and for future research to help identify more barriers to assessment.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) is one of the nation’s leading health policy research centers and the premier source of health policy information for California. UCLA CHPR improves the public’s health through high quality, objective, and evidence-based research and data that informs effective policymaking. It is the home of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) and is part of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

First 5 California is dedicated to improving the lives of California’s young children and their families through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare, and other crucial programs.

The Public Health Institute generates and promotes research, leadership and partnerships to build capacity for strong public health policy, programs, systems and practices.

Note: This study and findings reflect data collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

by Elaiza Torralba


The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 631 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.

Faculty Referenced by this Article

Dr. Ninez Ponce
Ninez Ponce
Health Policy and Management
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Michael Ong
Michael Ong
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Burt Cowgill
Burt Cowgill
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Sandra Aronberg
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Lori Pelliccioni
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Risha Gidwani
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Aria Fallah
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Arlene Fink
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Anthony Hunter Schiff
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Freund, Deborah
Deborah Anne Freund
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Annette Maxwell
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Michael Galper
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Ty Robbins
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Carol Mangione
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Jennifer Wortham
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Beth Glenn
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David Hayes-Bautista
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Roshan Bastani
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Barbara Berman
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Paul Chung
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Robert Brook
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Alice Kuo
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Paul Fu, Jr.
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Vickie Mays
Vickie Mays
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Lillian Gelberg
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William Comanor
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Linda Rosenstock
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Ron D. Hays

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Thomas D. Gordon
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Frederick Zimmerman
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Laura Erskine
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Steven Teutsch
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Naomi Zewde
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Jack Needleman
Jack Needleman
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Jean Balgrosky
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Diana Hilberman
Diana Hilberman
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Mark Litwin
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Joann G. Elmore
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Dylan Roby
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Moira Inkelas
Moira Inkelas
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Neal Halfon
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Dr. Yvonne Flores
Yvonne Flores
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Olivia Jung
Olivia Jung
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Dr. Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
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Isomi Miake-Lye
Isomi Miake-Lye
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Emily Abel
Emily Abel
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Dr. Xi Zhu
Xi Zhu
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Dr. William McCarthy
William J. McCarthy
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Michelle Keller
Michelle S. Keller

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Avram Kaplan
Avram Kaplan
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Dr. Jonathan Fielding
Jonathan Fielding
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Nadereh Pourat
Nadereh Pourat
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Daniel Eisenberg
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Emmeline Chuang
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Ron Andersen

Dr. Ron Andersen is the Wasserman Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Departments of Health Policy and Management.

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Srikanth Kadiyala
Health Policy and Management
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Z. John Lu
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Pamela Davidson
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Kenneth Wells
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Jose J. Escarce
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Sangeeta Ahluwalia
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Robert Kaplan
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Patricia Ganz
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Susan Ettner
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Jeanne Miranda
Jeanne Miranda
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Kristen Choi
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Corrina Moucheraud
Corrina Moucheraud
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Leah Vriesman
Leah Vriesman
Health Policy and Management
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Warren Scott Comulada
Warren Scott Comulada
Health Policy and Management
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Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
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Stephanie L. Taylor

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Samuel Sessions
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Felicia Hodge
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