Advocacy Begins with Listening


edwards-r-annebw150By MNAAP Policy Chair Anne Edwards, MD, FAAP

Child advocacy might be defined as speaking out on behalf of children. And yet, it might be said that advocacy really begins with listening. As pediatricians with varied backgrounds, advocacy is at the core of our work. We are privileged to partner with children and families to promote health and overall wellbeing. As we partner, we listen to the stories — successes and challenges — of children. This informs our initial (often individual) advocacy: communicating with a school, addressing food insecurity or completing a prior authorization form. This individual advocacy may lead to engaging more broadly on a community level by actively participating in coalitions to address issues such as childhood obesity.

MNAAP listens to the individual and community advocacy of pediatricians to direct its state advocacy work, including legislative priorities. The annual fall survey of members not only informs the formation of our key work groups (poverty, mental health, immunizations and child abuse/maltreatment) but also informs the work of the policy committee. Each fall, the policy committee reviews the priorities of each work group as well as member responses to the survey. The opportunities often are greater than our resources; the committee must determine two to three key state advocacy priorities to bring forward to the board for final approval. This year the board approved three key areas: promoting health equity, increasing mental health access and funding, and strengthening vaccine laws.

Minnesota has among the nation’s best health care, though for far too many of our children that care depends on where the child lives, their socioeconomic demographic, or which race or ethnic group they belong. Representing the overall wellbeing of children, MNAAP considers addressing health equity to be of key importance.

In addition, far too many children and adolescents with mental health needs are going without needed care, and resources are stretched too thin to adequately meet existing need.

Finally, while immunizations are one of the single safest, most cost-effective ways to ensure the health and safety of children and teens, Minnesota’s vaccination law is among the weakest in the nation.

MNAAP considers itself to be an important voice in addressing these issues. Certainly while these three priorities will be our state-level advocacy focus, MNAAP will follow dozens of legislative issues which may affect children as well as pediatrician members.
Yes, advocacy may begin with listening, but now is the time to come together to find our collective voices and speak out on behalf of children on these important issues. Too often children are forgotten in discussions amongst decision makers – however, as pediatricians, who always are child advocates, we can make children a consistent part of the dialogue. Follow MNAAP during this legislative session through social media and legislative email updates for opportunities to lend your voice toward an improved future for children.

2016 legislative priorities

  • Promoting health equity
  • Increasing mental health access and funding
  • Strengthening vaccine laws

Stay informed!

Get Involved!
Attend Pediatricians’ Day at the Capitol March 12 – visit

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Mayo Clinic
Shriners Healthcare for Children-Twin Cities