We stood firm in 2018 to meet challenges to child health
Colleen A.Kraft, M.D., M.B.A., FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
Letter from the President
As 2018 AAP president, I envisioned advocating for regulatory reforms and exploring
how we can use technology and innovation to increase efficiencies and improve patient
care. I traveled the country meeting with primary care pediatricians, specialists
and subspecialists to learn about and share new programs, ideas and resources. And
I helped champion our Pediatrics for the 21st Century program, “Leveraging New Technologies
to Transform Child Health,” at last month’s National Conference & Exhibition.
But early this year, I learned that we often are not in control of all the issues
that affect our children.
A little over a month into my presidency, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Fla., became the scene of one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern
It was both horrifying and horrifyingly familiar. For more than two decades, the AAP
has been at the forefront of keeping children safe from gun violence — an effort that
has left us continually frustrated by lawmakers’ collective inaction.
But this time, things were different. This time the survivors rose up and organized.
Students began literally marching for their lives, and we pediatricians were right
there with them.
We renewed our call for a public health approach to gun violence. And after years
of asking the federal government to support and fund original gun safety research,
we decided to take this on ourselves. We launched the AAP Gun Safety and Injury Prevention
Initiative to bring together experts from around the country to solve this epidemic.
In May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its policy to separate
migrant parents and children at the border. We wrote to the DHS secretary and embarked
on the most consequential media blitz in AAP history: 250 media interviews with various
AAP spokespeople, all spreading the word that family separation can cause toxic stress
and hurt brain development. The widespread coverage — and our powerful message — helped
shift public opinion and led to a reversal of the family separation policy. We continue
to monitor the situation and make sure these kids are treated with compassion and
not exposed to conditions that could further harm them.
We sounded the alarm on vaping and e-cigarettes, which threaten to addict a whole
new generation to nicotine. We educated children, parents and the public about the
harmful effects of e-cigarettes on developing brains. We sued the Food and Drug Administration
to take immediate regulatory action and review these products before they come to
market to prevent even more young people from being exposed to lethal compounds or
beginning a life-long addiction.
In addition, we achieved an impressive list of legislative victories with large national
investments in nearly every priority we had in the federal government. Through our
hard work, we:
secured a 10-year extension for funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program;
enacted federal legislation that will improve the child welfare system;
made major progress toward a comprehensive solution to end the opioid crisis;
strengthened support for grandparents who are parenting grandchildren;
added new research dollars to the National Institutes of Health; and
increased funding for child abuse and lead poisoning prevention, children’s hospital
graduate medical education and many other vital programs.
And we celebrate one of our AAP members who was elected to Congress! Kimberly Schrier,
M.D., FAAP, from Washington state will represent her district and advocate for accessible
health care in a way that only a pediatrician can!
Our work this past year is not only a source of pride for us, but a source of hope
for children and families. Together we demonstrated the powerful role the Academy
plays in building our nation’s future and what being the voice of child health and
protection really means.
It has been my honor to have been on this remarkable journey with you. And I look
forward to continuing this important work with our incoming president Kyle Yasuda,
M.D., FAAP, — and all of you — for years to come.