Residents of Taipei, Taoyuan and Tainan lag behind those of the three other special municipalities in taking advantage of free health checkups for young children, data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare showed.
The ministry offers seven free checkups for children up to the age of seven, aimed at preventing stunted development.
The WHO defines stunting as impaired growth and development due to poor nutrition, repeated infection or inadequate psychosocial stimulation.
Between 958,000 and 1.1 million preventative checkups were performed annually from 2017 to 2021, and 77.7 to 80.9 percent of children received them every year, the data showed.
Among Taiwan’s regions, the lowest number of children receiving them were in Keelung, at 62.6 percent, Lienchiang County at 70.8 percent and Chiayi County at 73.3 percent.
For this year the ministry has budgeted NT$240 million (US$7.8 million) for the checkups, saying it anticipates about 888,000 checkups to be performed.
Chen Li-chuan (陳麗娟), a senior specialist in the Health Promotion Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Division, on Friday said that the participation rate is calculated based on population figures provided by household registration offices.
As many people do not live where they are registered, the rates are only estimates, she said.
The Taipei Department of Health said that the city had the highest checkup participation rate before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but it decreased significantly in 2020.
However, the rate increased over the past two years, it said, adding that it sends notifications about the checkups to parents via SMS.
The city also sends nurses to kindergartens each year to conduct physical, vision, hearing and oral examinations on about 60,000 children, it said.
Taoyuan Department of Public Health Deputy Director Su Po-wen (蘇柏文) said her agency has provided checkups at kindergartens and community centers since 2020, helping the city reach a coverage rate of 90.16 percent.
Additional reporting by Tsai Ssu-pei, Cheng Shu-ting and Hung Jui-chin
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