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Learn Strategies to Improve Care of Immigrant Children :

September 15, 2017

Editor's note: The 2017 AAP National Conference & Exhibition will take place from Sept. 16-19 in Chicago.

Immigrant children can face a formidable list of challenges: poverty, food insecurity, language barriers, history of trauma, legal issues, separation from their families.

So when they present for care, pediatricians may not know where to begin.

“I think the key to care of immigrant children and children in immigrant families is we need to understand that family’s journey as it relates to their health and well-being,” said Julie Linton, MD, FAAP, co-chair of the AAP Immigrant Health Special Interest Group of the Council on Community Pediatrics. “The concept of a welcoming environment in your practice can be established regardless of how daunting the task of addressing those issues may be.”

Dr. Linton has spent a good part of her career working with immigrant children. She will share strategies to care for this vulnerable group during a seminar titled “Advancing Health Care Quality for Immigrant Children (S3158)” from 4:00-5:30 pm Monday in McCormick Place West, W180. Joining Dr. Linton will be Lanre Falusi, MD, FAAP, a member of the special interest group and associate medical director, Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children's National Health System in Washington, DC.

Dr. Linton said initially she was involved in global health work.

“I have always had … a fire in my belly regarding equity and justice in terms of access to care,” she said.

Over time, she realized that her passion for those issues also applied to children in this country. She became a certified interpreter for immigrant families, worked in a free clinic and helped to establish one in Philadelphia.

“As I moved forward in my career, I realized there was such an opportunity to engage in global health locally and really try to make a difference in achieving equity for all children, including those who come from some of the most disenfranchised situations I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Linton, assistant professor of pediatrics, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC.

During the session, Dr. Linton and Dr. Falusi will discuss how immigration status is a social determinant of health that can impact children’s access to care, mental health and well-being. They also will present strategies pediatricians can use to improve care of immigrant children, develop partnerships with community organizations and build resilience in children and families.

“It is very difficult to address physical health, mental health, social determinants of health, legal issues, education all in one visit. In fact, I would say it’s impossible,” Dr. Linton acknowledged.

“The most important thing is to triage, to get a sense of what that family’s journey has been, what the most urgent issues are for that family, and then to start there with a baseline checklist of what do I absolutely need to accomplish during this visit.”

Although the past year has been particularly challenging for those who care for immigrant children and families, Dr. Linton’s outlook remains positive.

“It’s been inspiring to see how many people have stood up and wanted to get involved even more so than before,” she said. “And I think it’s also made me incredibly grateful for my career choice to be a pediatrician and to have an organization like the American Academy of Pediatrics standing up so boldly — and in my mind so justly — to defend the rights of all children.”

Follow Dr. Linton on Twitter @juliemlinton. Follow Dr. Falusi @lanrefalusi.

For more coverage of the AAP National Conference & Exhibition visit and follow AAPNews on Twitter and Facebook.

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