On the two-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic, the AAP Board of Directors was reminded of the uncertainty and challenges pediatricians confronted early on and continue to face today. The Board also confirmed that the Academy’s child health priorities have never been more relevant.
Moira A. Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, who presided over her first meeting as AAP president Jan. 28, addressed the daunting challenges that members face due to COVID, while acknowledging the important role they have had and will continue to hold.
“It’s been an exhausting, uncertain, challenging two years for our members — no matter what pediatric setting they work in. Yet they continue to bring innovation, dedication and compassion to the care of children and families. We will get through this together,” Dr. Szilagyi said during the virtual meeting. “And by continuing to speak with one reassuring voice that is rooted in science, we will help our patients, families, communities and country get through this as well.
“At the same time, we will continue to exert our influence and get on with our important work and priorities in terms of mental health, equity, payment and pediatrician well-being,” she added.
Building vaccine confidence
To help bolster the number of children vaccinated while combating vaccine misinformation and disinformation, the AAP continues to build on its multimedia COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Campaign. Millions have viewed radio and TV public service announcements, and partnerships with the Ad Council and Kaiser Family Foundation have helped expand the reach of messaging, reported AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D.
To assist clinicians in the practice setting, Medicaid will cover 100% of vaccine counseling for children up to age 21 with 100% federal funding. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will require states to cover stand-alone vaccine counseling visits related to all pediatric vaccines under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit.
“(The Academy) will work directly with the White House to make sure the potential of this new code to create the environment where this crucial counseling gets done,” Del Monte said.
In addition to efforts to increase vaccination rates, the AAP is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and other groups to address the indirect effects of COVID-19 on children, he said.
“I think that these trying times have transformed the Academy of Pediatrics into a household name, a trusted partner with the federal government, clearly the definitive authority on child health in the United States and around the world. We have unprecedented ability and credibility at this moment,” Del Monte said. “And so now we have to see what we can do with it. This is our moment to step up and step forward until we get to the other side of this pandemic.”
Del Monte announced several senior leadership changes, including the recruitment of a chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer. This new position, he said, will help support the AAP’s mission and alignment with its strategic plan and child health priorities, which include the COVID-19 response, equity agenda, mental health and getting children vaccinated. Del Monte also reported the promotion of Anne R. Edwards, M.D., FAAP, to chief medical officer (see related article). Dr. Edwards will assume the responsibilities of Fan Tait, M.D., FAAP, who retired at the end of 2021.
Primary care, subspecialty pediatrics
Presenting a forward-looking strategy for primary care and subspecialty pediatrics was Cheryl L. De Pinto, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, AAP senior vice present for primary care and subspecialty pediatrics, who offered the following recommendations:
- Define how to align primary care and care transformation efforts within the Academy.
- Identify where integrated care concepts can be included in policy (eg, subspecialty integration).
- Encourage committees, councils and sections to identify opportunities to include integrated primary care considerations into their priorities.
- Leverage partnerships for training, education, and continuing education
Who are America’s children?
Lynn Olson, Ph.D., vice president of AAP Research, provided a snapshot of child demographics based on U.S. Census Bureau data. Among the findings:
- The number of births declined by 16% between 2007 and 2020.
- There has been a significant child population shift, with notable growth in the South and a decrease in the Northeast.
- The growth in the number of immigrant children is at a historic level. In 2020, they comprised 27% of all children, compared to 7% in 1970.
- Progress on child health insurance coverage has been substantial; however, gaps remain related to geography, race and ethnicity.
Other board activity
- The board approved establishment of a Council on Healthy Mental and Emotional Development. The size and composition of the council’s executive committee will be determined at the May Board meeting.
- The Board Committee on Equity is writing a policy statement titled Eliminating Race-based Medicine, which codifies principles and language already in use in many parts of the Academy.
- Development of the ChildHealth Improvement through Longitudinal Data (CHILD) registry is on schedule. Currently in phase two of the three-phase pilot, “data is starting to be shared, and the promise of the registry is coming to fruition,” Del Monte said.
- In-person continuing medical education courses resumed in January. Attendees must adhere to AAP and CDC guidelines, as well as any local regulations.
- The Board approved a dues increase of $5 for most member types
AAP News article “U.S. child population decreasing, becoming more diverse”