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Board update: AAP focuses on mental health of children, pediatricians

January 31, 2023

In light of the mental health crisis among young people, as well as the mental and physical toll of the past few years on pediatricians, the AAP Board of Directors took two actions at its January meeting to support members and the families for whom they care.

Board members voted to create a national pediatric mental health education center, which will offer multimodel learning opportunities on topics related to relational health and resilience skills from infancy through adolescence.

The board also agreed to develop a work plan for how the Academy can prioritize and contribute to the safety and well-being of pediatricians. This move is in response to the No. 1 resolution from the 2022 Leadership Conference, when members called on the AAP to support pediatricians who have experienced adversity, including threats of violence or public attacks.

Presiding over her first meeting as AAP president, Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP, said she was honored to be the first Chinese American to serve in the role. In the Chinese zodiac, she noted, 2023 is the year of the rabbit — a symbol of hope.

“In pediatrics especially, I think hope is something that drives us as we work with children and help them succeed and become our future,” Dr. Chung said. “I think this is our year. In 2023, those of us in health care really have an opportunity to do well and be safe.”

Strategic priorities for 2023 approved

The board voted to retain the three 2022 child health and pediatric practice priorities, while adding a fourth for 2023:

  1. healthy mental and emotional development,
  2. COVID recovery and disaster readiness,
  3. equity, diversity and inclusion, and
  4. safety and well-being within the pediatric profession.

The board Member Value and Engagement Committee (MVEC) is tasked with developing an organizational plan to address the safety and well-being of pediatricians.

“The Academy is being asked to invest time and deep thought and effort in how to support its members,” said MVEC Chair Constance S. Houck, M.D, M.P.H., FAAP. “We will be looking at ways we can prioritize and contribute to the safety and well-being of all within the pediatric profession.”

Related to the priority on healthy mental and emotional development, the AAP will create a pediatric mental health education center, which will expand the capacity of pediatricians and care systems to address the mental health needs of U.S. children and adolescents. The center will perform a needs assessment to identify knowledge gaps and develop a portfolio of educational content on a range of topics, including building resilience skills from infancy through adolescence.

“The AAP and others have declared a mental health emergency for children and adolescents,” said Margaret C. Fisher, M.D., FAAP, chair of the board Strategic Planning Committee. “This new center meets an urgent and ongoing need to expand the nation’s capacity to address the mental and behavioral health needs of children and teens.”

Fundraising for the center has begun through the AAP’s Upraising Healthy Children campaign. “We are looking to philanthropy and other partners to help us build out this initiative. To take this training to all who need it, we are going to need substantial new resources,” said CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D.

Changes to election rules, board rotation

The board approved changes recommended by the National Nominating Committee to the AAP election rules clarifying email use during campaigns. Starting with the 2023 president-elect election, candidates will have the opportunity to communicate through the AAP to all members in new ways.

Board members also agreed to appoint an independent task force to examine the rotation calendar for the 13 members of the Board of Directors. Currently, an uneven rotation pattern means 11 members would rotate off in the span of two years, creating continuity challenges for multiyear projects. The task force will make a recommendation to the board to consider at its May meeting, for a possible member referendum in 2023. Changes would be implemented in the 2024 election cycle.

Dues adjustment approved

For the 2023-’24 membership cycle, board members voted to minimize dues increases for residents and fellowship trainees, who will see annual dues increase by $1, to $136 and $146, respectively. Other membership categories, including Fellows, specialty Fellows, international members and senior members, will see dues increases between $2 and $7 annually. National affiliate members will see a $16 increase.

The board also voted to continue the partial dues waiver for members in Puerto Rico for two more years as they continue to struggle with recovery from hurricane damage.

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