Dr. Jay E. Berkelhamer's Plenary Session President's Address

October 27, 2007

Jay E. Berkelhamer, MD, the outgoing president of the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics), gave his introductory talks of the Saturday plenary session after a performance of a boys' choir. His message of the critical need to better child health care was also preached to a choir, one of like-minded health care providers.

Jay E. Berkelhamer, MD, the outgoing president of the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics), gavehis introductory talks of the Saturday plenary session after a performance of a boys' choir. Hismessage of the critical need to better child health care was also preached to a choir, one oflike-minded health care providers.

During an emotional speech that drew numerous rounds of applause, Dr. Berkelhamer praised AAPfor the work it had done over the preceding year. He named the pediatric devices bill, the BestPharmaceuticals for Children's Act, and the State Child's Healthcare Insurance Plan (SCHIP)reauthorization. Yet, he added, there was so much more to do.

A recent UNICEF report of 21 rich nations found the US second-to-last in its children'shealth care, despite being one of the richest on the list. "Countries that prioritize children receivebetter results," Dr. Berkelhamer explained. "The next generation is our most precious naturalresource," and the US needs a more aggressive agenda for its children.

He brought up the recent bill expending SCHIP, which received bipartisan support through theHouse and Senate before being vetoed by President Bush. Though it didn't pass, he considered it avictory that the issue was brought "front and center" to the American people.

"Political needs and partisan ideology should never trump the needs of children," he said, addingthat politicians who voted for the bill should be thanked, and those who voted against it remembered. Berkelhamer also spoke out against the "doc-in-a-box" philosophy of health care. "Every childneeds a medical home," he said to sustained applause. Continuum of care is essential not just forhealth, but issues like education and nutrition.

AAP's focus is expanding to look at the world, not just the US, Berkelhamer said. AAP haspartnered with pediatric organizations in Egypt and China to help increase global child wellness. Healso talked of one physician in El Paso, Texas who regularly crossed the border to Mexico tovolunteer in low-income villages.

Sharing experience and expertise isn't just for the sake of generosity. "Any disease is nomore than a plane ride away," he said. He also highlighted the tenth anniversary of the America'sPromise Alliance, which works to improve five key aspects - caring adults, safe places, ahealthy start, effective education, and the opportunity to help others - that dramaticallyimprove chances for success in life.

"The world's most ardent advocates for children are here today," Berkelhamer concluded. Heurged them to continue to fight for better health care for children. "Together we can make thishappen--from 'dream,' to 'done.'"