As a pediatrician, I spend long days in the office diagnosing ear infections, illnesses and monitoring development in children. But that’s just part of what pediatricians do. We’re also advocates for our patients and their families in a broad variety of ways.
Beyond the exam room, we coordinate with families, schools, community support groups and specialists to ensure the well being of our patients. For example, I voice my concerns about patients’ education to their school districts when appropriate. To reduce out of pocket costs for my families, I work with insurance companies to ensure they have evidence why the medicine I’ve prescribed is the best choice for my patient so it will be covered.
Children don’t vote and don’t hold seats in Congress. They do, however, need to have a voice – and not just one voice but several. Parents, teachers, social workers and family members are great advocates for children. Pediatricians also provide a voice for them.
We monitor how laws affect what we can or can’t do for our patients. We write to legislators to remind them about how laws may affect a child’s ability to maintain needed services. And we work in other ways to protect children, sometimes with legislators to craft laws that will provide the better protection. Every day, we are work to find ways we can make kids’ lives safer. Just look back to days when we didn’t have seat belt or car seat laws. Amercian Academy of Pedaitrics chapters were instrumental in getting these legislations passed and children are safer because of them. By providing children a protective frame, they can grow and thrive in a safe and healthy environment.
Working with parents, educators and lawmakers, we try to protect children from harm, including harmful products, bullying and unsafe environments. Fortunately most lawmakers want to help kids - it’s not about party lines, but protecting children. In my experience, both parties want to make sure our children have a bright future.
It’s about sorting through what will be helpful and what will be harmful in the long run. Sometimes it takes a phone call or an email to a legislator. Other times it takes a face-to-face meeting to advocate or clarify a position. I also remind my patients’ parents to pick up the phone or send an email on behalf of their child.
Pediatricians often work together to promote health issues, and fortunately we have support from the American Academy of Pediatrics along with our local Missouri chapter to inform colleagues and encourage them to join us in our advocacy efforts. After all, we are children’s voices.
Dr. Sandra McKay, a Mercy Clinic pediatrician with Mercy Children’s Hospital, serves as secretary/treasurer of the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is also a member of the executive council for the Missouri AAP and a board member of the Maternal Child and Family Health Coalition.