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Board update: AAP sets 2021 priorities: COVID response, Equity Agenda, mental health

February 22, 2021










The first AAP Board of Directors meeting was gaveled to order in 2021, marking the third quarterly meeting being held virtually and a sign of COVID-19’s continued foothold.

At its Jan. 29 meeting, leadership addressed the pandemic’s impact on pediatrics and how the AAP will tackle related challenges.

“I am encouraged and hopeful that we’re going to … get our children safely back to school across the country and into their pediatricians’ offices, support our members, and address the weaknesses in our health systems and those inequities in our society,” said AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP.

New emphasis, she said, will be placed on three key areas:maintaining effective COVID-19 response;advancing mental health carefor children and families; and implementing the Year 1 Work Plan for the AAP Equity Agenda.

In addition, work will continue on established priorities, such as supporting members’ health and well-being; building the AAPChild Health Improvement through Longitudinal Data (CHILD) registry; and advancing the 2021 federal advocacy agenda.

COVID-19 response

Vaccine hesitancy, coupled with children and adolescents falling behind on routine immunizations during the pandemic, signaled that the need for effective ways to communicate about vaccines has never been greater, Dr. Beers said. 

In response, the Academy is initiating phase 2 of the Call Your Pediatrician multimedia campaign implemented last fall. The AAP has commissioned the social science research consulting firm Frameworks Institute to better understand how the public perceives vaccines and aid in development of targeted messages that will resonate with a wide variety of audiences.

In addition, the AAP will continue to support pediatricians in various ways:

  • continuing to develop and update interim guidance on critical topics;
  • holding virtual town halls;
  • answering member email inquiries sent to; 
  • utilizing numerous grants for COVID-19 response, including for telehealth, infection prevention and control, disinfectant use and immunizations; 
  • awarding grants to chapters; and
  • hosting AAP COVID-19 Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) programs. 

“All of the problems and worries we had about children before the pandemic have only been deepened and exacerbated by it, and that makes our mission clear as the Academy starts its 91st year,” said AAP CEO/Executive Vice President Mark Del Monte, J.D.

Advancing mental health care

Mental health is a personal priority of hers, Dr. Beers said. Addressing the mental health needs of patients’ families and fellow pediatricians will build on existing work, such as:

  • clinical practice activities/resources: new ECHO courses on providing behavioral and mental health services through telehealth and revising the AAP Mental Health Toolkit and Pediatric Care Online content;
  • education/training efforts: Pediatric Mental Health Minute Series; AAP Mental Health Residency Curriculum to include three additional modules;
  • substance use grant activities with Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 
  • adolescent suicide prevention activities; 
  • American Medical Association Behavioral Health Integration Collaborative; and
  • global mental health work through National Institute of Mental Health. 

Equity Agenda Year 1 Work Plan

Work is underway to implement activities associated with the five goals of the Equity Agenda ( internal process, education, leadership, clinical practice, and policy and advocacy.

In development is an AAP language style guide that will reflect inclusive and anti-bias nomenclature, as well as terms and phrases to avoid. 

At press time, the AAP was close to identifying a consultant to help strengthen the organizational culture. Additionally, the AAP Policy Committee is looking at ways to give authors guidance to ensure policy is developed looking through an equity lens.

Another area of focus is how to leverage the collective power of partner organizations to advance our agenda and elements that are common across these organizations, including the National Medical Association, Federation of Pediatric Organization and American Board of Pediatrics. 

CHILD registry year one

The Academy continues to lay the groundwork for a clinical data registry that will help pediatricians demonstrate the quality of the care they deliver, help define nationally recognized health measures and support clinical and health services research output. 

In preparation to roll out pilot sites later this year, interviews are being conducted with diverse stakeholders to validate the CHILD registry value propositions, specifically regarding higher payments, defining quality in pediatrics, internal quality improvement, national benchmarking, clinical and health services research, and public health initiatives. 

Email questions about the CHILD registry to

Call to action: need for catch-up vaccinations

Special guest Melinda Wharton, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, highlighted the need to improve vaccination rates, particularly among children covered under the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

The CDC reported a sharp drop in ambulatory medical visits following declaration of the public health emergency, with a corresponding decline in public and private sector vaccine orders. While visits have rebounded in some age groups, visits for younger children remain substantially below the pre-pandemic baseline. 

Overall, VFC program orders are down by almost 10.3 million doses. Of those, a little over 1.3 million doses are measles-containing vaccine, according to Dr. Wharton.

She urged pediatricians to let families know what precautions are in place for the safe delivery of services and identify and notify families whose children have missed doses.

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