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MNAAP Newsletter

Word from the President

AndrewKiraguBy Andrew Kiragu, MD, FAAP

Fall is here, and with it, bright and vibrant colors, a final burst of life before winter’s senescence. I hope that you have all been able to take some time to enjoy these changing seasons and perhaps draw lessons and some comfort from them. Lessons that beyond the dark and cold winter days ahead comes spring.

These are definitely dark and difficult times we are living in. Last month, a lone gunman shot almost 600 of his fellow human beings, killing 58 of them and himself. We may never know why. Sadly, this mass shooting incident is just one of over 299 this year. So far in 2017, there have been almost 13,000 gun related deaths including those of 599 children between 0-11 years of age and an additional 2,700 deaths of kids aged 12-17.

In response to this carnage, our members of Congress offer “thoughts and prayers” and seem unwilling and/or unable to enact any meaningful gun safety legislation that would make mass shootings like this less likely. Indeed, before the shooting, Congress was getting set to schedule a vote on the NRA-backed Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which among other things would allow the purchase of silencers (apparently to “protect hunters hearing”) and armor-piercing bullets.

What can we as pediatricians do? There are a number of ways to try to impact change, including collaborating with the MNAAP and other advocacy groups to reach out to our state and federal legislators; working with schools and other community groups on safety preparedness and mental health outreach; and in our own practices, addressing firearm safety with patients and their families.

As if dealing with this wasn’t enough, the Trump administration continues to seek ways to weaken and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Recent executive actions to stop subsidies that help low-income Americans pay for health insurance and expansion of association health plans that provide less comprehensive coverage are threats to the health of the poor, the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses. In addition, the failure of the U.S. Congress to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by the September 30th deadline has put access to health care for 9 million children at risk. It is yet another sad example of Congress’s seeming inability to place the wellbeing of our country’s most vulnerable citizens ahead of party and special interest politics.

The same can be said about the administration’s rescinding of the DACA program, which is causing significant anxiety and has injected uncertainty into these young peoples’ futures. In a particularly cruel act, Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was, after undergoing emergency surgery, taken into custody by U.S. immigration authorities and placed in an immigration shelter against her physicians’ recommendations and away from her parents.

Recent natural disasters have also impacted the health of children. This is especially evident in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are still reeling from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Around the world so many children are impacted by war, lack of access to adequate health care as well as other natural and man-made disasters. We are witness to the atrocities committed against children in Syria and Myanmar where the Rohingya are facing what can only be described as ethnic cleansing.

Indeed, everywhere you turn there seems to be an active assault on children, the poor, immigrants and other minority populations, and the environment. One could be forgiven for feeling despondent. However, along with many of our fellow pediatricians here in Minnesota, across the country and around the world, it is important to continue to stand up for children. So many of you have been engaged in global pediatric outreach and providing care to those in greatest need. You have raised money, donated time and supplies for relief efforts, and have raised your voices for children. It has been amazing to see so many pediatricians engaged in all these efforts. In particular, it has been incredible to see medical students and pediatric residents so active in advocating for children. The current and next generations of pediatricians are moving full steam ahead.

So just as after winter comes the spring, these difficult times will pass. In the meantime, let us continue to stand in the gap for kids. I wish you all a lovely fall and winter season.



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