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Young and seasoned leaders translate AAP advocacy skills in many places, languages :

May 8, 2019

Thousands of pediatricians have participated in AAP opportunities to learn how to advocate for kids in their communities and across the nation.

The AAP recognizes that children benefit when members are taught how to be effective advocates, whether it’s visiting Capitol Hill, attending the Legislative Conference or taking part in collaborative advocacy activities.

Pediatricians, residents and medical students have discovered that they can use their advocacy skills to make an impact wherever they live and work around the world.

Global health at home

Linda D. Arnold, M.D., FAAP

Lauren E. Palladino, M.D., a third-year resident at Yale School of Medicine, seized a chance to see her professor, Linda D. Arnold, M.D., FAAP, speak at the 2018 International Summit in Human Genetics and Genomics.

Dr. Arnold said she used the advocacy skills she has acquired over nearly 30 years as an active AAP member and past chair of the AAP Section on International Child Health (SOICH) to amplify her voice and message.

It was because of Dr. Arnold that Dr. Palladino participated in the AAP Legislative Conference and Washington, D.C., internship program.

Dr. Palladino recalls feeling amazed at the AAP’s impact on policies affecting children. She attended hearings, including one about the separation of immigrant children from their families. Legislators frequently cited AAP policy and quoted AAP leaders, she said.

“This reinforced the importance of coming forward and speaking out on matters that have to do with children’s health and well-being,” Dr. Palladino said. “We have the responsibility to keep speaking out on these issues because they do affect kids and what we say is taken seriously.”

Translating research into policy

Medical student Joseph R. Starnes

Medical student Joseph R. Starnes said that interning with the AAP made him better prepared for an internship with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The opportunity the AAP offers students and residents is unparalleled,” said Starnes, a SOICH member.

As an AAP intern, Starnes learned how to translate research into policy. He worked on federal advocacy initiatives supporting the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Affordable Care Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He also had a chance to work on noncommunicable diseases issues. Those skills helped later when he wrote policy briefs about universal health coverage as a WHO intern.

The federal advocacy experience changed his approach to global research, he said.

“Someone who goes to medical school spends a lot of time seeing what an academic medicine career looks like, but not necessarily how that translates to global health and global health policy,” he said. “It’s definitely framed our research differently having seen how people in D.C. think about research when they’re thinking about policy.”

Before traveling to Malawi last year, Sanemba Aya Fanny, M.D., met leaders, legislators and congressional aides as an AAP intern.

“One day, I spoke three languages in the same afternoon,” said Dr. Fanny, a third-year resident at Baylor College of Medicine. “I got to understand how decisions are made and how people advocate for global health agenda and ask for budgets and allocate (funds) to diseases and programs. Now that I am in the field (in Malawi), I’m on the receiving end. It helps the provider understand where the decisions are coming from.”

Sanemba Aya Fanny, M.D

The AAP values young members like Dr. Fanny, Dr. Palladino and Starnes who carry out federal advocacy and policy work and can extend it to benefit all children, said Janna Patterson, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, senior vice president, AAP Global Child Health and Life Support.

“We hope they come away from (their) experience appreciating both the Academy's role in local and global child health and ways they can engage in global advocacy on behalf of the AAP going forward,” Dr. Patterson said.

The AAP also is collaborating with pediatric leaders from other nations.

An AAP/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program is providing advocacy skills training to leaders from pediatric sister societies in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda.

The plans they develop mirror AAP federal advocacy approaches and aim to help sister pediatric societies facing familiar issues such as vaccine hesitancy and tobacco and secondhand smoke. (See

Dr. Patterson recalled that experiences with and knowledge about other health systems helped her build a stronger connection to refugee patients she cared for in the U.S. “What we do in other parts of the world links to the United States,” she said.

Dr. Arnold added, “The AAP gives members the opportunity to use their voices to advocate for children living beyond U.S. borders and also to advocate for international children who are now living here in the U.S.”

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