Priorities for 2019 focus on health of children and physicians
KyleYasuda, M.D., FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
Letter from the President
The past year has been one of challenge and achievement, and I look forward to the
many more great things we will do together in 2019. As I begin my term, I’d like to
share a few thoughts starting with several areas I plan to focus on for the coming
Investing in early childhood
My first goal is to expand opportunities for all children and families through a renewed
attention on early childhood, including quality child care, parental support, home
visitation and education. Three decades of research show that for every $1 spent on
quality early child care, the return is $13. Investing in early childhood programs
is not just good social policy, but an economic imperative.
I also want to focus on you by addressing physician wellness. U.S. physicians have
the highest suicide rate of any profession — higher than the military and more than
double that of the general population.
With more than one medical student or physician committing suicide each day, physician
resiliency is not just a concern; it’s an emergency. On every flight, we’re told to
put on our oxygen mask first before tending to a child or infant. Similarly, we must
take care of ourselves in order to care for the children of our country.
Pediatricians become burned out not because we’re weak but perhaps because we care
too much. Burnout occurs when we know what to do for our patients, but we’re unable
to do it because too many suffer from social inequities and a lack of resources. Add
to that the administrative and regulatory burdens (billing, inadequate payments, documentation),
and we start to feel less like healers and more like data entry clerks, spending more
time on tedious things and less on what matters most.
We’ve been working with the National Academy of Medicine and dozens of other groups
to address the causes of physician burnout. I pledge to act on what we’re learning
for the sake of our health, our profession, the quality of care we provide our patients
and to help restore the joy in our life’s work.
Connecting children and families with nature
My third goal is to share a personal passion of mine: connecting children and families
with nature. Many children have little to no exposure to the natural world. Whether
due to overuse of electronic media or urban sprawl, kids have become disconnected
from nature and the outdoors.
That’s a shame. Research shows children do better physically and emotionally when
they’re in green spaces, benefiting from greater physical activity, better mental
health, reduced stress and increased resilience. Nature helps improve their executive
function, their ability to learn and their relationships with their families and other
Living near parks and woods affects the health of children, regardless of social class.
Yet, as with many things that promote good health, there is not equal access. Many
children do not have safe places to play. Urbanization and the loss of green space
have occurred, especially in low-income areas. So, we need to partner with communities
to reduce these barriers.
Organization built on relationships
Finally, I recognize that the AAP is an organization built on relationships. I will
work hard to nurture and grow relationships with our members, lawmakers, other like-minded
organizations and our sister pediatric societies from around the world so that we
continue to build upon all the good we do for children and the profession of pediatrics.
And I will support efforts to help you build and maintain the unique and valuable
relationships you have with patients and families to preserve the sacred trust they
place in us.
Thank you for the trust you have placed in me and the opportunity to serve as your
president. No doubt, the year ahead will be full of times that will try us, challenges
that will test us and people who will inspire us. I look forward to working with you
to help rediscover the joy of our life’s work and to continue to support and expand
opportunities for children and families.