Child health advocacy victory: Disaster preparedness bill becomes law
DevinMiller, Washington Correspondent
While it may not have made headlines, the AAP-supported Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness
and Advancing Innovation (PAHPAI) Actwas signed into law by President Donald Trump in late June.
A victory for child health advocacy in Washington, the law focuses on the nation’s
medical and public health preparedness to respond to disasters and strengthens readiness
and recovery efforts. Provisions within the law, championed by the Academy, aim to
ensure children and adolescents are prioritized before, during and after disasters,
such as the recent measles outbreaks and hurricanes. The first version of this legislation
became law in 2006, signed by then-President George W. Bush.
“Part of what makes a disaster a disaster is its unpredictability; we don't know when
or how disaster will strike, but we do know what children need when the unthinkable
happens,” said AAP CEO/Executive Vice President (Interim) Mark Del Monte, J.D., in
a press statement following Congress’ passage of the bill. “PAHPAI helps ensure the
government prioritizes putting into practice the right interventions to keep children
as safe and healthy as possible.”
Two key AAP priorities were included in the final legislation. First, the law reauthorizes
and expands the Department of Health and Human Services National Advisory Committee
on Children and Disasters. This committee has been made up of pediatricians and child
health experts who can advise the federal government on the most effective ways to
ensure children’s needs are met.
In addition, for the first time, the law officially establishes the Children’s Preparedness
Unit (CPU) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CPU serves
as the agency’s leading source for children’s needs in public health emergencies.
Partnering with external stakeholders, including the Academy, the CPU provides the
CDC and its grantees with technical assistance, training and consultation to improve
preparedness and response capabilities for children. The CPU has played a vital role
during emergency responses to Ebola and the Zika virus, approaching these issues using
a child health lens.
As parts of the country enter hurricane season, it is essential that these programs
can serve children and adolescents in need and that pediatricians and other child
health experts can continue to inform the federal government’s efforts to protect
First national assessment of school meals program shows progress
With the start of a new school year on the horizon for many students across the country,
there is some promising news to report about school nutrition programs.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the first comprehensive
assessment of national school nutrition standards, which were implemented as part
of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010. The results were positive and showed
critical progress for children’s health.
One of the main findings was that the nutritional quality of school breakfast and
lunch, which is scored on the Healthy Eating Index, increased significantly after
the standards were put into place. On a 100-point scale, the nutritional quality score
for national school lunches rose from 57.9 to 81.5, and for breakfast, it increased
from 49.6 to 71.3.
In addition, the study found an association between healthy food standards and student
participation, showing that schools with higher nutritional quality lunches also had
higher student participation rates. Also of note, no change was seen in food waste
in the cafeteria.
The first assessment of these programs, the report illustrates the progress that can
be made for children’s health by addressing school nutrition, especially since children
commonly consume up to half their daily calories during the school day. The Academy
will continue to advocate for policies that expand access to healthy foods for children