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Board update: COVID-19 vaccine response, mental health, equity efforts highlighted

June 9, 2021

Ongoing work on AAP child health priorities was the focus of the Board of Directors’ spring meeting. Leadership detailed the organization’s response to authorization of COVID-19 vaccine for children as well as plans to address mental and behavioral health and equity.

‘Key moment in time’

The Academy initiated a multifaceted response to emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 and older. Central to the Academy’s messaging is stressing to parents the safety and importance of COVID-19 vaccine, while encouraging pediatricians to enroll as vaccinators. The Academy also saw this milestone as an opportunity to urge parents to catch their children up on all recommended immunizations.

To underscore these messages, the Academy issued the policy statement COVID-19Vaccines in Children and Adolescents. In addition to recommending COVID-19 vaccination for all children and adolescents ages 12 and older, the policy supports the coadministration of routine immunizations with COVID-19 vaccines.

Further supporting this effort is the #CallYourPediatrician campaign, as well as ongoing work with federal partners on vaccine distribution, including increasing the number of Vaccines for Children program providers enrolled to administer COVID vaccines.

“AAP is working with partners in the federal government on the adolescent vaccine rollout and advocating for quick and equitable distribution of available COVID-19 vaccine for all children and families in every community,“ said AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D. “Now our job is to get those shots into the arms of the kids.”

Del Monte called this “a key moment in time” and pointed to AAP resources to guide pediatricians.

He said overcoming vaccine hesitancy and improving vaccine confidence are challenges the Academy will continue to pour resources into as we move toward approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 12.

Mental health

The AAP is continuing a strategic approach to meeting the mental and behavioral health needs of children and youth, including partnering with the Children’s Hospital Association to promote awareness of the growing mental health crises among children and pediatricians. While also seeking federal funding for pediatric mental and behavioral health programs, the board approved $250,000 from the AAP Friends of Children Fund and Tomorrow’s Children Endowment to support the AAP’s efforts.

Martha C. Middlemist, M.D., FAAP, chair of the board’s Strategic Planning Committee, shared the AAP Healthy Mental Development Action Plan, which focuses on four key principles:

  • Partnerships:Build partnerships to advance child and adolescent mental health.
  • Leadership: Create a culture of pediatric leadership in child, adolescent and family mental health nationally and globally.
  • Education: Equip members with knowledge, skills and resources to support the healthy mental development of infants, children, adolescents and families in clinical practice.
  • Advocacy and policy development: Advance mental health of children and adolescents through advocacy and policy development.

The board also heard a presentation from Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (see article at ).

Equity, diversity efforts continue

Progress continues on implementation of the AAP Equity Agenda: Year One Workplan.

The Board Committee on Equity recently released a document called Words Matter to address the use of anti-biased, inclusive language in AAP content, with the target audience being AAP content creators, such as authors, editors, presenters and media spokespeople.

“This is really a framework with some specific recommendations but conceived as a way to help people think about using anti-biased and inclusive language as they create their content, and specifically we do address considerations of disability, race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Equity Committee Chair Wendy S. Davis, M.D., FAAP.

At the leadership level, the following have been established to support the organization’s equity work plan:

  • Ongoing efforts by the district equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) champions to advance EDI initiatives at the chapter and district levels.
  • Sponsorship of National Medical Association (NMA) pediatric trainee abstracts.
  • Ongoing collaboration with NMA’s pediatric leadership.

UTI guideline retired

All policies, reports and guidelines are being reviewed through a lens of equity, diversity and inclusion, according to Dennis Cooley, M.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Board Committee on Policy.

Under this new process, the board voted to immediately retire the Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis and Management of the Initial UTI in Febrile Infants and Children 2 to 24 Months, due to improper use of race as a factor in disease risk. The Board is expected to communicate the rationale for this decision in Pediatrics, Dr. Cooley noted.

Strategic initiative endowment

The Board approved the establishment of a new $10 million endowment for strategic initiatives. Any revenue resulting from this endowment will be allocated during the annual budgeting process. In the 2021-’22 fiscal year, endowment revenue will be allocated for the development of the AAP Child Health Improvement through Longitudinal Data registry and other emerging initiatives.

The $10 million endowment emanated from a loan the Academy received under the Paycheck Protection Program established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The loan was later forgiven.

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