By Kathy Ellerbeck, MD, MPH, FAAP
Greetings! Chris Steege, Pam Shaw, Bob Wittler and I just returned from the annual AAP District VI meeting. This year, District VI met in Minneapolis with state chapters from District I. Each state in each District reports on successes and challenges over the past year, and AAP Leadership and National Committees report on their work. In addition to hearing presentations on health care reform, we heard presentations from the President-Elect candidates: Dr. Tom Tryon from Missouri and Dr. Sandra Hassink from Delaware. We had enthusiastic presentations from the Section on Young Physicians (SOYP) and from the Section on Medical Students, Residents and Fellowship Trainees (SOMSRFT). And we heard some wonderful presentations on AAP Priorities including gun safety, trauma in the lives of children, poverty, and early brain and child development. In this newsletter, I’d like to highlight some of what we heard.
The Connecticut Chapter gave moving testimony about what has happened since the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown on December 14th, 2012. Since that day, there have been nearly 4,700 deaths due to guns, with 93 deaths in children under age 12 and an additional 243 deaths in children ages 13 through 17. Connecticut Chapter leaders talked about not only the Newtown families, but the pediatricians and first responders. And they talked about how important it was to their Chapter that the number one resolution adopted at this year’s Annual Leadership Forum was a call to educate families about the culture of violence in the media and its effects on children.
Dr. Robert Sege gave a talk on the science of Early Brain and Child Development (EBCD). While pediatricians have always known that what happens to a child has significant life course consequences – there is new understanding of how very important toxic stress is to brain architecture. The new 2012 Policy Statement on Early Childhood Adversity, Toxic Stress, and the Role of the Pediatrician reports on this brain science – and pushes us to translate that to our families. We need to find ways to support children’s emerging social-emotional-linguistic skills and positive parenting techniques. The kinds of supports that families need to succeed cost money, but we may get investment from unexpected quarters. There is a growing recognition that early childhood development is economic development. At the District meeting, Art Rolnick, economist and Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota made a persuasive economic argument using “return on investment.” The quality of the workforce matters to businesses, and CEO’s are beginning to lobby the government to improve child health and quality early childhood education to improve the health and productivity of their future workforce.
Chapters were asked to talk about successes, challenges, and best practices:
- The AAP 2012 policy statement, Preventing Firearm-Related Injuries in the Pediatric Population, states that the absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents. In Kansas, as in many other states – legislation around guns has been contentious. However, thanks to testimony by KAAP and KMS, physicians in Kansas can continue to council families about gun safety. Please see Dr. Cooley’s Legislative Update for more detail.
- The KAAP was recently awarded one of the five Healthy People 2020 Social Media grants for a proposal designed to support pediatricians with materials and messaging on the science of toxic stress and the importance of positive parenting to early brain development. The Baby Buffer Social Media Program will pilot in four Kansas practices over the next 18 months.
- As demonstrated by the numbers of hits that AAP Policy Statements get from the public – it is clear that pediatricians continue to be a trusted source for information and that the public is interested in psychosocial as well as medical issues. The AAP has a new policy statement, “Providing Care for Immigrant, Migrant, and Border Children” – I hope you have the opportunity to read Dr. Cooley’s article on Immigration and Pediatrics.
- Consider opportunities to work on AAP (or KAAP) committees. In this issue of the newsletter, Dr. Gregory Conners writes that his involvement on the AAP Committee on Pediatric Emergency Medicine has been professionally very rewarding and that he has learned a great deal on the process of translating a clinical issue into a policy statement.
- The Section of Young Physicians (SOYP) and the Section of Medical Students, Residents, and Fellowship Trainees (SOMSRFT) both talked about the importance of having a professional home for career and personal development. The SOYP is trying a First 1000 days campaign to improve member benefits to young physicians (and physicians who may not be quite so young, but are in their first years of practice). Please read what’s happening in Kansas in the new column from two of our young physicians – Drs. Anna Esparham and Grace Brouillette.
- There was much talk of collaboration and “being at the table” when children’s issues are discussed. The Kansas Maternal and Child Health Council is a group of stakeholders involved in policy issues with the Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). KAAP receives a grant to run this council and recently there has been opportunity to provide greater input on priority issues for children.
- The Kansas Chapter received a Chapter Award for education efforts on children’s mental health. Dr. Pam Shaw received an individual award for her leadership on both children’s mental health and developmental screening. Please see Mel Hudelson’s article on how to support our mental health and early literacy programs through donating to the Kansas Pediatric Foundation. We are working to raise a $50,000 endowment for the Kansas KidLink program so that we can keep the website up and running into perpetuity!
- Finally – our April CME meeting was a success – and the KAAP Annual Fall CME meeting is coming up on October 3rd and 4th in Old Town, Wichita. Save the date!
Somebody at the District meeting put up a slide with a quote by Alan Kay that said “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”. I believe that as pediatricians we have the knowledge and the power to invent a better future for the children we care for. Hope to see you in October!