Video campaigns highlight how pediatricians are natural advocates
NusheenAmeenuddin, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP
Mastering the Media
The summer of 2017 will be seared into pediatricians’ collective memory as the apex
of the long fight to #KeepKidsCovered.
After Congress’ repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, thousands of
pediatricians mobilized to protect Medicaid from cuts or spending caps. They called
elected officials, wrote op-eds and letters to the editor, and engaged with legislators
on social media. The Academy concentrated these efforts over two Days of Action in
Simultaneously, a coalition was building among multiple groups because the proposed
legislation could leave millions without health insurance.
One effort, spearheaded by Esther Choo, M.D., M.P.H., an adult emergency medicine
physician in Oregon, was a call for physicians to create videos explaining how the
pending health care legislation would hurt their patients. Under the hashtag #DoctorsSpeakOut,
physicians across multiple specialties posted videos that were edited into a compilation
Inspired by this effort, pediatricians launched a #KeepKidsCovered video campaign
just before the second AAP Day of Action. Recognizing the potential of social media
to spread the word and the power of video to tell a story, the effort aimed to humanize
an abstract, politically polarizing issue.
With Medicaid being the single largest health insurer of U.S. children, this issue
touched many pediatricians. Over approximately two weeks, pediatricians in over 30
states, representing various subspecialties, levels of training, practice settings,
ages and ethnicities, posted over 100 videos.
California Chapter 3 President Marsha D. Spitzer, M.D., FAAP, noted that making the
videos channeled pediatrician outrage and frustration into a therapeutic and productive
Using the hashtag #AAPChapterWars created by Deanna M. Behrens, M.D., FAAP, pediatricians
rallied to submit the most videos for their state, district or AAP section while contributing
to a larger effort to help children.
Most submissions were from AAP members with little to no media experience. The videos
didn’t follow any script or formula. Members were asked to hit record and simply tell
The unpolished nature of the videos added to the authenticity and power of the pediatrician
voice, flying in the face of conventional wisdom that prioritizes perfectly parsed
media messaging from impeccably styled presenters. Pediatricians recorded videos at
home with a propped smartphone, rapping in an office supply closet, late at night
in a call room wearing wrinkled scrubs, in a hotel, at an airport and even one in
a child’s treehouse. AAP board member Pamela K. Shaw, M.D., FAAP, received the call
while her car was being repaired and recorded her video on the spot.
Pediatricians told stories that connected with people. We did what we do every day,
educating people and getting buy-in on an important issue. We used the skills we hone
through practice, translated them to a different medium and amplified the message
to a larger audience through social media.
We now have over 200 pediatrician videos as a result of ongoing advocacy related to
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. What began as a grassroots effort
caught the attention of major media outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post. Some videos were shared on social media by celebrities and elected officials.
Moved by the videos, an independent group approached the Academy to create a professional
compilation video that debuted in July, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XWdIvP9RBM. With over 200,000 views, this video boosted the message that Medicaid mattered and
that U.S. pediatricians would not remain silent when the health of children was threatened.
It set a precedent for how pediatricians can engage the public and legislators in
translating critical issues and breaking through the echo chamber that social media
These video campaigns show how pediatricians are natural advocates whose experiences
can change hearts and minds.
Following are key elements to recruit colleagues to create a video message:
Know what matters to the people you’re recruiting and your audience.
Be personal. A general call for action may get lost in a sea of emails, but tagging
individuals you know and asking them to share the message personalizes the request
and increases accountability.
Speaking up encourages others to do the same. You never know who you might inspire
by stepping outside your comfort zone.
Editor’s note: Dr. Ameenuddin initiated the video facet of the #KeepKidsCovered campaign after AAP
Section on Pediatric Trainees member William Burrough encouraged her to create a Medicaid
Dr. Ameenuddin is vice chair of the AAP Council on Communications and Media Executive
Medicaid campaign a win-win for children, pediatricians
Children weren’t the only winners in the effort to #KeepKidsCovered. The AAP campaign,
Medicaid Matters for Children: Pediatrician Engagement to Protect Children’s Health
Care, was honored by PR News with the Member Communications Award in the nonprofit
category. The campaign was successful in informing, mobilizing and empowering pediatrician
Through strategic, clear and concise member communications and targeted social media
conversations, the campaign drew unprecedented levels of advocacy from AAP members.
As a result, the message that #MedicaidMatters rang clearly throughout the national
health care debate.
Follow @AmerAcadPeds to join colleagues in speaking up for children.