As 2018 AAP president, I envisioned advocating for regulatory reforms and exploring how we can use technology and innovation to increase efficiencies and improve patient care. I traveled the country meeting with primary care pediatricians, specialists and subspecialists to learn about and share new programs, ideas and resources. And I helped champion our Pediatrics for the 21st Century program, “Leveraging New Technologies to Transform Child Health,” at last month’s National Conference & Exhibition.
But early this year, I learned that we often are not in control of all the issues that affect our children.
A little over a month into my presidency, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., became the scene of one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.
It was both horrifying and horrifyingly familiar. For more than two decades, the AAP has been at the forefront of keeping children safe from gun violence — an effort that has left us continually frustrated by lawmakers’ collective inaction.
But this time, things were different. This time the survivors rose up and organized. Students began literally marching for their lives, and we pediatricians were right there with them.
We renewed our call for a public health approach to gun violence. And after years of asking the federal government to support and fund original gun safety research, we decided to take this on ourselves. We launched the AAP Gun Safety and Injury Prevention Initiative to bring together experts from around the country to solve this epidemic.
In May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its policy to separate migrant parents and children at the border. We wrote to the DHS secretary and embarked on the most consequential media blitz in AAP history: 250 media interviews with various AAP spokespeople, all spreading the word that family separation can cause toxic stress and hurt brain development. The widespread coverage — and our powerful message — helped shift public opinion and led to a reversal of the family separation policy. We continue to monitor the situation and make sure these kids are treated with compassion and not exposed to conditions that could further harm them.
We sounded the alarm on vaping and e-cigarettes, which threaten to addict a whole new generation to nicotine. We educated children, parents and the public about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes on developing brains. We sued the Food and Drug Administration to take immediate regulatory action and review these products before they come to market to prevent even more young people from being exposed to lethal compounds or beginning a life-long addiction.
In addition, we achieved an impressive list of legislative victories with large national investments in nearly every priority we had in the federal government. Through our hard work, we:
- secured a 10-year extension for funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program;
- enacted federal legislation that will improve the child welfare system;
- made major progress toward a comprehensive solution to end the opioid crisis;
- strengthened support for grandparents who are parenting grandchildren;
- added new research dollars to the National Institutes of Health; and
- increased funding for child abuse and lead poisoning prevention, children’s hospital graduate medical education and many other vital programs.
And we celebrate one of our AAP members who was elected to Congress! Kimberly Schrier, M.D., FAAP, from Washington state will represent her district and advocate for accessible health care in a way that only a pediatrician can!
Our work this past year is not only a source of pride for us, but a source of hope for children and families. Together we demonstrated the powerful role the Academy plays in building our nation’s future and what being the voice of child health and protection really means.
It has been my honor to have been on this remarkable journey with you. And I look forward to continuing this important work with our incoming president Kyle Yasuda, M.D., FAAP, — and all of you — for years to come.
We never stood down.
We never gave in.
We never gave up, and we never will.