Pediatrician advocacy has been at the forefront of several high-profile issues that have captured the country’s attention this summer and continue to inform the national dialogue. Guided by its evidence-based policies, the Academy calls on leaders at all levels of government to understand and prioritize the health of young people.
The national midterm elections on Nov. 8 present a vital opportunity to hold the country’s leaders accountable for advancing policies that support public health, address health inequities and reflect what children need to thrive.
Candidates elected to positions up and down the ballot will shape policies that impact the health of children, families and communities. There are 36 gubernational elections, and 80% of state legislative seats are on the ballot. On the federal side, all 435 U.S. House seats and 35 U.S. Senate seats are up for election.
The Academy once again is leading a nonpartisan Get Out the Vote campaign. Members can take part in the campaign by informing eligible adolescent patients and families about the importance of voting and elevating issues that impact children’s lives to those seeking office.
A dizzying number of high-stakes issues impact the health of young people, including policies on vaccination, access to abortion and gun violence prevention. While many issues play out on the national stage, the implications often are felt acutely — and differently — based on state or ZIP code. Voting is an important tool in an advocate’s toolbox to elect leaders who influence health policies at the local, state and federal levels. The months leading up to the elections are critical for raising awareness, educating voters and outlining what is at stake.
The Academy will be providing resources, tools and background information to help guide members’ Get Out the Vote efforts. The AAP also partners with the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Vot-ER, which offers a suite of tools to help health care providers register colleagues and patients to vote, such as badges with QR codes.
Additionally, August is Civic Health Month, and the Academy is raising awareness of the relationship among health care, healthy communities and civic participation.
Stay tuned for more information from the Academy on how to prepare for the midterm elections and ways to amplify the importance of voting.
Supreme Court rulings with health implications
The U.S. Supreme Court concluded its session at the end of June, with several consequential rulings in its final days. Below is a recap of cases the Academy was tracking.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization
The Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, no longer guaranteeing the once constitutionally protected right to access an abortion. The Academy issued a press statement in response to the ruling stating the decision “carries grave consequences for our adolescent patients, who already face many more barriers than adults in accessing comprehensive reproductive healthcare services and abortion care.”
The AAP also joined with four leading physician organizations, representing more than 400,000 physicians and medical students, to criticize the ruling for jeopardizing the confidential patient-physician relationship.
Hours before the release of the ruling, the AAP issued two updated policy statements, reaffirming its support for adolescents to receive comprehensive, evidence-based reproductive health care services, including abortion. The updates were underway as part of the five-year policy renewal process.
The court ruling shifts decisions surrounding abortion care access to the states, and the Academy will be working with its chapters as policies develop across the country.
West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was not permissible. The plan would have allowed states to shift away from higher emission electricity generation, such as coal.
The AAP joined an amicus brief on this case with the American Thoracic Society, American Medical Association and other health and medical organizations. The brief outlined the public health benefits of regulating greenhouse gas emissions and the health harms of climate change, including children’s unique vulnerabilities.
“Every child should have the right to breathe clean air. To ensure that right, our federal government must be able to pass regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the AAP stated in a Twitter thread. “The decision will make it harder for that to happen now and harder for regulations to pass in the future.”
Biden v. Texas
Migrant Protection Protocols — an immigration policy put in place during the Trump administration — was the focus of this case. The Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration has the right to end the policy, which forced individuals seeking asylum to remain in Mexico as their cases made their way through U.S. immigration courts.
The Academy has called for an end to this policy, urging the administration to allow immigrant children and their families to resume the pursuit of legitimate claims for asylum in the United States.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to a district court to determine whether terminating the policy violated any administrative laws.
New law addressing gun violence a result of bipartisan progress
President Biden recently signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major bipartisan bill to address gun violence in decades.
AAP President Moira A. Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, and Lois Lee, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention Executive Committee, attended a ceremony at the White House to celebrate the law’s passage and the progress it represents.
The law enhances background checks for buyers ages 18 to 21 and clarifies who must register as a federal firearms dealer. It also provides funding to incentivize implementation of state red flag laws, which allow family members or law enforcement to petition a judge to remove firearms from the environment of people deemed at risk of harming themselves or others.
The law also reauthorizes the AAP-championed Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program and provides an additional $80 million in direct appropriations. The program enhances primary care pediatricians’ capacity to screen, treat and refer children with mental health concerns by providing telehealth consultation by child mental health provider teams.
While this law marks important progress, the Academy believes more needs to be done to protect children, families and communities from gun violence.
CHIP celebrates 25 years
On Aug. 5, 1997, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program was created as part of the Balanced Budget Act. Ten years later, the program was renamed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and this month celebrates its 25th year. CHIP builds on the foundation of Medicaid to cover children in working families who are not eligible for Medicaid and lack access to affordable coverage.
The program has long-garnered bipartisan support and offers children benefits that are age-appropriate and designed around their unique health needs. The Academy continues its advocacy to keep CHIP strong, including efforts to urge Congress to fund the program permanently.