As a pediatrician for over 44 years, I take great pride in my professional organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Recognizing a need for concentrated efforts by pediatricians to advocate for children and families, it was founded 90 years ago. Organized medicine at the time did not share the urgency of the AAP founders to shift its focus to children and families. With an unabashedly strong pediatric focus, the early call to action by the AAP’s first president, Dr. Isaac Abt, noted that “as an organization we should assist and lead in public health measures, in social reform, and in hospital and education administration as they affect the welfare of children.” At the time, it was unusual for a professional organization to advocate for folks other than themselves—but that is what pediatricians do.
Now why did I lead with that paragraph? Well, the AAP is at it again. Having just released its BLUEPRINT FOR CHILDREN FOR 2020 AND BEYOND, the AAP addresses head-on the serious issues that concern our children and solemnly concludes that “our society isn’t fulfilling our promise to children.” The interested reader can refer to the initial draft (https://services.aap.org/en/advocacy/blueprint-for-children/) but I am compelled to note some background material and a call to action.
But first some context—the AAP is not a political organization; we are specifically apolitical yet to be silent when so many children and families need advocacy (for medical, psychological, educational, socio-economic, public health and more) would be an abrogation of our duty to our patients, families and fellow citizens. Children are our most vulnerable population and, sadly, rarely considered when significant public policy decisions are made. The grown-ups in the room tend to think of their own economic interests and not the long-term effects of their actions. And they tend to focus their actions on their own socio-economic group and not the folks of different colors or lesser means. The AAP gladly steps in the breach here and speaks for all (and especially those in need or those who have been ignored).
Some sobering facts—
- Close to 10 million children have gone hungry this summer.
- The number of uninsured children continues to grow, even before the sobering increase from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Systemic racism continues to be a significant issue; denying that fact only delays progress toward its eradication. Children and families of color are disproportionately adversely affected by so many health-related issues.
- Gun violence is real – 87 children/young adults are injured or killed by firearms each day
- Early childhood adversity has life-long consequences (and really trans-generational consequences).
- The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic far exceed those of the disease itself – the educational, mental health, social and other effects are real. While the overt disease expression in children is low, the hidden disease effects on children and their families are far greater than even realized.
- Fewer children and adults are getting vaccine for preventable diseases – this is a real travesty that will manifest itself in the months to years ahead.
The list goes on but I want to mention that the time frame for this AAP BLUEPRINT in 2020 is eerily similar to 100 years ago! We had just recovered over an extended period of time from the 1918 influenza epidemic. And then the Depression hit in the 1920s. Yet folks rallied to do what needed to be done and then the AAP was formed at the end of that decade. The AAP continues to be ready to lead the charge and will never waver in its commitment to all children and families.
Our goal is to have Healthy Children, Secure Families, Strong Communities and a Leading Nation for Youth. This blueprint aptly notes that “humanity has shown us that we all care for children, both the ones we raise and the ones we don’t.” To do any less is simply unacceptable.