AAP: President Jenkins: a year of ‘tiaras and targets’

October 12, 2008

The good moments of Reneé R. Jenkins’ one-year tenure as president of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made her feel like she was wearing a tiara. The bad moments made that tiara feel like it was a target.

The good moments of Reneé R. Jenkins’ one-year tenure as president of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made her feel like she was wearing a tiara. The bad moments made that tiara feel like it was a target.

Anti-vaccine protesters marched outside some of AAP’s meetings, spurnedon by a celebrity activist. A bill to more than double State Child Health InsuranceProgram (SCHIP) funding passed Congress overwhelmingly, but was vetoed by President Bush.But still, there were more tiaras than targets, overall.

Jenkins joked that since her background was in adolescent medicine, she assumedthat would mean she wouldn’t have to deal much with immunizations. Not thisyear, though: movements to get girls immunized for HPV to prevent cervical cancer,combined with school mandates to give flu shots all children over six months ofage, made vaccines a big deal for all ages of pediatrics.

The herd immunity all children get when most of them are immunized is going away,Jenkins warned. She showed a color-coded map of Washington State over the years,where regions with more than 5% refusal rates grew like a rash. One county hasa 30.5% exemption rate. In these areas, vaccine-preventable disease like measlesand meningitis are coming back.

Jenkins and AAP took up the challenge to respond quickly to the anti-vaccine movementby helping to promote the awareness Web site vaccineyourbaby.org, run by EveryChild by Two. It has a celebrity spokesperson as well.

The movement to get the SCHIP budget raised was also a positive, and helped makea statement about child health, Jenkins said, even though it was not ultimatelysuccessful.

America ranks next to last in a list of population health levels in developednations, she reported. This was akin, she said, possibly as a veiled Yankees allusionto please the Boston crowd, to a sports team with the biggest budget in the leaguegetting the worst performance.

“And guess what? The coach’s contract is expiring!” Jenkinsurged the next president, whoever he is, to pass the expanded SCHIP bill, and showed off a sectionof the AAP’s Web site where political candidates’ positions on children’shealth are listed. It lists “who’s for kids, and who’s justkidding,” she said.

The economic downturn will certainly affect health care in the future. Jenkinsbrought up the Telluride Principles for Investing in Young Children, which saidthat one way to heal the economy is by investing in child health, making for betterworkers down the road. She also introduced the Vision of Pediatrics 2020 TaskForce, which is trying to make equality in child health care a reality, unhinderedby race, gender, class, geography, or finances.

After her speech, Jenkins helped deliver the AAP Education Awards, to winnersDavid Bernhardt, MD, and Kurt Metzl, MD.