The White House is highlighting a new AAP initiative to offer training to all 67,000 of its pediatricians to screen for nutrition insecurity and refer patients to trusted resources.
The announcement is part of today’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, which is centered around a new federal plan to end hunger by 2030. AAP President Moira A. Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, is in attendance and stressed the importance of the AAP’s efforts.
“Healthy nutrition in childhood sets the foundation for lifelong health,” Dr. Szilagyi said. “Pediatricians play a vital role in identifying nutrition insecurity in their patients, and this important work will help ensure that families in need can be connected to federal and community resources that support strong nutrition and their overall health.”
In 2021, about 10% of households experienced food insecurity, which can take a devastating toll on children’s physical, mental and behavioral health. The AAP’s initiative is part of a partnership with anti-hunger nonprofit Share our Strength, which is funding the work. Seven AAP chapters — Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Montana, Washington, D.C. — have been participating in a pilot program that started in 2021. During the past year, they have been forming new consortiums or joining existing consortiums to take on projects specific to their state. For instance, some are working to increase Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children recertification.
The AAP has committed to offering training to all of its member pediatricians to screen for nutrition insecurity using evidence-based learning models. It is recruiting cohorts of pediatric ambassadors who can build partnerships with community organizations, giving clinicians trusted resources to which they can refer patients.
Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas and Utah will be the next chapters to join the initiative. The goal is to reach every state and all pediatricians by 2030.The AAP will be tracking progress and the outcomes of pediatrician referrals.
The AAP’s commitment was announced along with the White House’s new National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The national plan has a goal of “ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases — while reducing related health disparities.”
The national strategy has five pillars:
- improving food access and affordability,
- integrating nutrition and health,
- empowering all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices,
- supporting physical activity for all, and
- enhancing nutrition and food security research.
Officials have detailed steps like pushing Congress to permanently extend the expanded child tax and earned income tax credits, expanding eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), expanding incentives for fruits and vegetables in SNAP, increasing access to free school meals, changing food package labels, facilitating lower sodium and sugar consumption, investing in efforts to connect people to parks and updating physical activity guidelines.
“This important conference and the commitment to a national strategy on ending hunger and healthier eating will build on the research and knowledge we now have to make America truly a stronger, healthier nation,” President Joe Biden wrote in the plan.