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Sweden’s Foster Children Missing Essential Health Check-Ups

Healthcare Gap: Sweden’s Foster Children Missing Out on Vital Check-Ups

In the land of the Nobel and Ikea, a startling revelation has raised eyebrows. Sweden, hailed worldwide for its top-notch healthcare, is grappling with a healthcare conundrum back home. A new survey conducted by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) shows that only one-third of Sweden’s foster children are offered a health examination, with even fewer receiving dental checks.

Healthcare: A Conditional Right?

As a general rule, children placed outside their homes such as foster homes or Care Homes for the Youth (HVB) must be offered a health examination. Surprisingly, two-thirds of them miss out, say the Board’s figures. A considerable improvement is urged by investigator Rose-Marie Odstam, “It’s important that we as a society, including municipalities and regions, look after these children and young people. They need access to healthcare which they are entitled to, on the same terms as their peers.”

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Vulnerable Group, Greater Health Risks

Project leader for the survey, Anita Bashar Aréen, emphasized that these foster children are at a greater risk of health problems. “They might have physical health problems, mental health issues or need various diagnoses,” she underscored. The same is true for their dental health too. Research shows that these children have poorer dental health and less contact with dental care than other children.

Only 34% of foster children received a health checkup and 15% had a dental examination in the July-December 2022 period.

The Hurdle

Regions need to be notified by the responsible municipality for a health checkup to be conducted. But hurdles exist which prevent this from happening. The municipality responsible for the foster child often deems it “unnecessary” to have an examination, hence they do not notify the region. However, the surveyors pointed out that children often stay longer in placement than planned, and therefore check-ups are needed even for short-term placements.

The most common reason cited for “unnecessary” check-ups is a brief placement period.

The Conclusions and Way Forward

In conclusion, more foster children and adolescents need to be offered health checkups, urged Rose-Marie Odstam. Municipalities should revise their routines for assessments and systematically follow up and evaluate their work with these checkups, suggested Anita Bashar Aréen.

This obvious healthcare gap raises pertinent questions and commits us to reassess our social responsibilities. As expats or locals, we must ensure these less privileged kids get the care they deserve. Their health rights are as valid as those of their peers, echoed throughout the green valleys and impressive cityscapes of Sweden. What unfolded in the report disappoints, yet it brings an opportunity to bridge this gap and provide these children with the care they are, by rights, entitled to.

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