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Find out how you can use science to advocate for immigration reform :

September 27, 2018

Editor's note:The2018 AAP National Conference & Exhibitionwill take place from Nov. 2-6 in Orlando.

Just like you take an evidence-based approach to treating sick kids, you can draw on communications research as you advocate for child health issues like immigration.

Moira O’Neil will explain how to use “framing strategies” during a presentation titled “Changing the Rhetoric Around Immigrant Children: Communication Strategies for Effective Advocacy (F1110)” from 4-4:45 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 in room W304CD of the convention center.

O’Neil is director of the research interpretation and application unit at the FrameWorks Institute, which uses communication research to help nonprofit organizations change public discourse on social issues and drive social change.

“In this talk, I’m going to share some of the findings that we have come up with to help pediatricians talk about the impact of current immigration policies on children’s development,” O’Neil said.

Those findings come from research on early childhood adversity as well as the best ways of communicating about immigration and immigration reform.

As pediatricians know, toxic stress early in life can cause a host of physical and mental health problems throughout life. The public, however, has been bombarded with messages like “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Therefore, when pediatricians advocate for more humane immigration policies, they need to do more than share a first-hand story about immigrant children in crisis, O’Neil said. They also must explain how this stress may impact these children years down the road — and they must propose some solutions.

“People can’t be left with a sense that this is awful, my heart is broken, but I’m dealing with 5 million things that are stressful in my own life and I’m paralyzed by this crisis,” she said. “It’s really finding that magic spot between description of problems and solutions.”

The goal of framing an issue is not to change people’s minds with a single communication, O’Neil said.

“If you think about it less as changing minds and (more about) helping people practice other ways to think about things, then I think you take a little bit of the pressure off of yourself to ‘win an argument.’”

Pediatricians also need to realize they are trusted messengers on the issue of immigration, O’Neil said.

“You are in the right position to be giving people this information,” she said. “You have incredible power and voice. Even though there are so many demands on you and you may feel overwhelmed, you really make an impact in ways that other groups might not be able to.”

For more coverage of the 2018 AAP National Conference & Exhibition visit and follow@AAPNews on Twitter and Facebook.

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