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Dr. Joseph Wright at podium

Equity Committee Chair Joseph L. Wright, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, speaks about the Equity Agenda workplan at the Nov. 4 board meeting.

AAP board approves updated Strategic Plan, Equity Agenda workplan

November 18, 2022

The AAP Board of Directors approved an updated Strategic Plan and Equity Agenda workplan during its Nov. 4 meeting.

Before the votes, AAP President Moira A. Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, noted that while COVID-19 cases are relatively low, pediatricians are grappling with surges of respiratory syncytial virus, a crisis in youth mental health and threats connected to providing gender-affirming care.

“We thank you for weathering the storms with us,” she said. “It is together we can find the strength and the resilience to continue the valuable work on behalf of children.”

The board also heard from an expert who discussed trauma-informed care.

Strategic Plan

The AAP’s Strategic Plan is designed to prepare the organization for the future. It combines environmental realities with AAP strengths to outline actions the Academy must take to advance its mission in 2023.

Earlier this year, the board adopted a new approach to strategic planning that incorporates annual updates to the goals and objectives. The updated plan retains the existing goals with revisions that reflect the Academy’s continued focus on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

“What is new in the plan is a deliberate attempt to strongly support member safety and wellbeing and address misinformation and disinformation in the pediatric health care environment,” Strategic Planning Committee Chair Martha C. Middlemist, M.D., FAAP, said after the meeting. 

Dr. Middlemist said the board considered input from AAP leaders and the resolutions they prioritized at the Annual Leadership Conference.  

“The new strategic plan strengthens goals in our ongoing work with chapters, membership, information technology and committees, councils and sections,” she said. “We will continue to cultivate collaboration with our national and global partners.”

The plan has six goals:

  1. Strengthen the Academy’s impact on health and health equity for infants, children, adolescents and young adults through clinical guidance, policy, advocacy and education.​
  2. Enrich and promote member value and engagement.​
  3. Broaden and diversify leadership pathways for general pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, pediatric surgical specialists and trainees within the Academy and the broader public sphere.​
  4. Enhance the Academy’s communication and information-sharing with members, stakeholders and public. ​
  5. Support strong relationships, interactions and leadership development between the AAP and chapters.​
  6. Continuously improve AAP member activities in education, advocacy and policy by strengthening the structure and function of committees, councils and sections.​

Each of the goals has several guiding objectives. The updated goals and guiding objectives take effect Jan. 1.

Equity Agenda workplan

The board also approved the Equity Agenda workplan 2.0. It plans to monitor progress regularly and conduct an annual review. Goals and objectives will be reviewed every three years.

“I feel confident that this workplan 2.0 will allow us to identify a clear path ahead, not without those bumps in the road of course, but at least points the direction where we need to be going and where we need to be leading,” said Equity Committee Chair Joseph L. Wright, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP.

The workplan has four goals:

Goal 1: Implement organizational change necessary to become a diverse, inclusive, anti-racist organization.

A new objective under this goal is to build staff capacity to apply an equity lens to AAP processes, programs and policies.

Goal 2: Increase general pediatricians’ and pediatric medical and surgical subspecialists’ knowledge of social and structural contributors of health inequities and build their capacity to combat bias, racism and other forms of oppression in practice, communities and institutions.

This goal is a combination of two previous goals on practice and education. A new objective is to increase capacity to address root causes of health inequities.

Goal 3: Strengthen the pathways to diversify the field of pediatrics and AAP leadership and build capacity in leadership practices that support EDI​.

Goal 4: Promote health equity and EDI through policy development and advocacy.

A new objective calls for the AAP to identify and increase joint advocacy efforts and other partnerships to advance health equity and justice.

“We are in the pole position as a field and also as an organization with this work, and many want to partner with us, many want to learn from us,” Dr. Wright said. “We have to, of course, take care of our own house first and apply that equity lens to all our processes and policies, but I think there is a synergy that comes from working with others.”

Trauma-informed care

The meeting also included a talk on trauma-informed care by Heather C. Forkey, M.D., FAAP, a member of the AAP Council on Healthy Mental and Emotional Development Executive Committee. She said clinicians don’t always recognize the adversities patients have faced and the health consequences of those adversities. Trauma can impact immune functions, neurons, the endocrine system, cardiovascular system, microbiome and more.

She also stressed the important role of supportive relationships in children’s lives.

“Trauma isn’t happening in a vacuum for any child,” she said. “Trauma happens from kids being exposed to bad things that are unbuffered by protective relationships.”

Dr. Forkey called on pediatricians to go beyond screening for adverse childhood experiences and use a new approach that includes engagement in a safe space and investigating potential trauma exposure or symptoms. They should provide in-office guidance and connect patients with evidence-based therapy, developmental support, community programs and medication in limited situations. Pediatricians also should provide families with hope for recovery.

“We sometimes forget that in trauma, hope is the most important thing we can provide to our families,” she said. “Again, reassuring them that they have our affiliate support so they can manage whatever threat comes along.”

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