OBJECTIVE. The proliferation of policy statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics presents pediatricians with an increasing amount of health advice to deliver, yet no quantitative estimates of pediatric health advice expectations exist in the literature. The objective of this study was to quantify and characterize verbal health advice that pediatricians are expected to deliver to patients/guardians.
METHODS. The authors read and coded the 344 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statements that are contained in the American Academy of Pediatrics' Pediatric Clinical Practice Guidelines and Policies, Third Edition, and identified 57 policies that contained health advice directives that are broadly relevant to pediatric practice. We extracted the individual advice text to a database in which we also coded its date of issue, its theme, and whether (1) it was duplicated in another policy, (2) a screening question was required to identify a target population for the advice, (3) handouts or other aids to delivering the advice were referenced in the policy itself, or (4) the text of the statement referred to evidence of the effectiveness of office-based delivery of the advice.
RESULTS. These 57 policies were found to contain 192 discrete health advice directives that pediatricians are expected to deliver to patients/guardians. Seven (4%) of these directives originated before 1993, and 185 (96%) were created from 1993 to 2002. After removal of the 30 (16%) duplicates, safety advice composed 67%, media use composed 12%, substance abuse composed 5%, environmental health hazards composed 4%, development/emotional health composed 4%, sexuality and pregnancy composed 3%, nutrition composed 2%, and miscellaneous composed 3%. In 41% of the directives, a screening question was required to identify the target population for the advice. Aids to delivering advice were referenced in 20% of the policies. In no policy statements did the text refer to evidence that office-based counseling was an effective method to achieve the desired health or behavioral outcome.
CONCLUSIONS. We examined the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statements and found 162 different verbal health advice directives on which pediatricians should counsel parents and patients throughout childhood. The expectation that delivery of all of this advice can be achieved is unrealistic. Moreover, none of the reviewed statements were found to include an evidence-based discussion of the efficacy of the suggested advice. In light of these findings, we suggest that committees should consider both the feasibility and the evidence of efficacy of office-based health advice when generating future policy statements.