On March 19th, 2015, health professionals, trainees, educators, policy makers and representatives from community based organizations returned to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai for the 3rd annual New York State Pediatric Advocacy Coalition (NYSPAC) Conference. Over 150 attendees joined the event, with in-depth discussions of improving health outcomes through early childhood interventions.
Keynote Speaker Charles Bruner, a nationally recognized leader in public policy and legislative advocacy, set the tone with his driving Grand Rounds presentation: “Health, Equity and Young Children: Pediatric Roles.” As the Executive Director of the Child and Family Policy Center in Iowa, Dr. Bruner taps into his experience as a state legislator to help states, communities, and foundations better care for children. He highlighted the creation of 1st Five Iowa, a public-private partnership bridging primary care and public health services for young children in the state. The model supports health providers in the earlier detection of social-emotional risk factors, developmental delays, and family-related risk factors that impact the early development of children from birth to 5 years of age. The program not only identifies children at risk, but also assists in coordinate referrals, interventions, and follow-up.
After the lecture, Dr. Bruner joined a panel discussion along with Dr. George Askew, Deputy Commissioner for Family and Child Health at the NYC Department of Health, and Dr. Rahil Briggs, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Group. The discussion, “Bridging Early Childhood Systems to Promote Lifelong Health: A Community Pediatrics Perspective,” was moderated by Dr. Liz Isakson, co-director for Docs for Tots. The discourse highlighted and emphasized the importance of collaboration between the community, health systems and policy-makers to provide a voice for children. Dr. Askew challenged the residents, fellows, and trainees in the audience to get involved: from visiting a Head Start program, to partnering with community organizations, the key is for everyone to get out into the community; to not shy away from addressing issues of equity, social justice, and racism.
As in previous years, morning and afternoon break-out sessions channeled the energy into discussions on partnerships and collaboration. Attendees shared and learned from each other on topics representing many facets of the early childhood theme: curriculum development for teaching community pediatrics and advocacy to trainees; media training to master your message; home visiting programs and caring for patients in the community; project development toward sustainability and success; building bridges between residency programs and community organizations; advocating for children with special healthcare needs; and environmental health and primary prevention.
From the dozens of posters presented by attendees from across the state and beyond, highlight oral presentations came from Ray Lopez, Director of The Environmental Health and Family Asthma Program at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service Group; Dr. Shilpa Pai, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Rutgers RWJMS; Dr. Anoop Rao, pediatric resident at Columbia University; and Kat Fisher and Shane Mannis of New York Road Runners. These individuals shared their diverse projects and successes in addressing the needs of children in our communities by creating successful programs, projects and policies.
To elucidate the political opportunities available to everyone who cares about child health, Elie Ward, Director of Policy and Advocacy at District II (New York State) of the American Academy of Pediatrics, detailed the latest legislative issues. Conference co-organizer, Dr. Cappy Collins, led by example in calling the leadership of the NYS Senate on speakerphone to endorse continued support for children’s environmental health centers in the state.
The tri-fold mission of the NYSPAC is to promote high-quality advocacy and community health training, promote and develop successful programs, and unify a legislative voice in support of children’s health across the state. This year’s conference was invigorating and sobering; while the accomplishments are great, the problems remain. Continued collaborations and partnerships will drive the work, and the NYSPAC is proud to coordinate the efforts of so many individuals and organizations.
We are especially pleased to have the participation of so many from so many fields:
“The conference was great. It is hard for me to select a favorite part. The guest speaker was wonderful—he gave a lot of information that New York should be working on. The networking was great and the workshops that I participated in were very informative.”
—Daseta Gray, Founder & CEO, Sabree Education Services
“For me the conference is always rejuvenating. The people there are my role models and are amazingly down to earth and really focused on advocating for children. I always feel ready to tackle on the world after the conference.”
—Chethan Sarabu, Pediatrics Resident, Rutgers-RWJ
“The best part of the conference was that it focused on implementation and action. As a public health practitioner working for a large non-profit in Harlem, I often leave conferences thinking that they were too theoretical and focused too much on research and not enough on how to put research into practice. This was not the case at the NYSPAC conference. It was very refreshing to be surrounded by public health workers from a variety of disciplines that were having frank conversations about what’s working and what’s not working. It was a great place to network with like-minded individuals in the community”
—Allison Marsh, Research Associate, Harlem Children’s Zone