A new AAP policy urges state legislators, agency administrators and other advocacy groups to tap into pediatricians’ expertise to promote the health of children as health care models continue to change.
Pediatric primary health care (PPHC) is of principal importance to the health and development of all children, helping them reach their potential, according to the policy Pediatric Primary Health Care: The Central Role of Pediatricians in Maintaining Children’s Health in Evolving Health Care Models. Given the rapidly evolving models of pediatric health care delivery, including the explosion of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatricians, together with national organizations such as the AAP, are the most capable clinicians to guide policy innovations on both the local and national stage.
The policy, from the Committee on Pediatric Workforce and the Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine, is available at https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2021-055553 and is published in the February issue of Pediatrics.
The following are among the recommendations the AAP made to policymakers as they consider changes to health care:
- Recognize that the pediatrician is the best expert to navigate myriad children’s health issues that come before health systems, legislatures, executive agencies and courts.
- Include the AAP and its relevant state chapters in policy decision-making. As the nation’s flagship pediatric organization, the AAP has access to pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists, policy experts and decades of experience regarding pediatric health care.
- Always consider the impact of any policy change on children’s health and well-being. Children, especially those experiencing health inequity, are unable to advocate for themselves. Their well-being depends on astute policymakers who not only understand their needs, but can take them into account as they consider a given policy.
“Pediatricians have received comprehensive education and training devoted to all aspects of pediatric health care,” according to the policy. “This education and training is coupled with a demonstrated interest in and total professional commitment to the health care of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Because of these unique qualifications, the pediatrician is a highly skilled and qualified supervisor of PPHC delivery, often partnering with other professionals to support team-based care.”
Given the continuity pediatricians typically establish with their patients, often spanning childhood and adolescence, pediatricians are uniquely able to monitor normal growth and development and flag concerns when patients deviate from their expected developmental path.
Because of their training and holistic outlook, pediatricians are uniquely prepared to move PPHC into integrated health systems that “allow children to develop and realize their potential,” according to the statement.
“Of all health professionals who care primarily for children, pediatricians have a unique mandate to maintain awareness of the larger health policy landscape to ensure it addresses the unique needs of children’s health,” the policy stated. “With the increased use of telehealth platforms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatricians’ experience and training will be vital to appropriately integrating this new care pathway into established medical homes.”