Leading and Supporting Child Health Issues


By Robert M. Jacobson, president of MNAAP…

I hope you take the time to read the front-page article about the destructive changes that have occurred to Minnesota’s newborn screening program. It’s the leading issue for our chapter this year in terms of advocacy. It rose to the top for three reasons: a clock-ticking sense of urgency, the large number of children who will be impacted, and the lack of other organizations willing to take the lead.

Occasionally our colleagues ask why we aren’t focusing more attention to injury prevention, gun control, child sex trafficking, responsible sex education, or other hot-button issues. My response is that we are careful to prioritize which efforts we best lead and which efforts we join coalitions our fellow pediatric advocates’ best lead. We only have so many resources. We have limited lobbying time, consultant support, and volunteer person-power. Last legislative season we pursued legislation related to anti-bullying, early brain development, newborn screening, and access to care. We have work groups and committees that drive each of those efforts.

If you are involved, you know that our work groups and committees meet outside of clinic hours via teleconference and are staffed by either our executive director Kathi Cairns or our communications director Melissa DeBilzan. If you aren’t involved and you want to be active in the life of our chapter, please join one of our work groups or committees. They include the obesity, quality improvement, healthcare homes, and immunizations workgroups as well as our committees on policy and membership/communication.

What about all the other issues? What about breastfeeding, guns, nicotine and tobacco, and bike helmets? How do we pick some issues and not others?

Actually, we do take stands on these important issues outside our workgroups or committees. In addition, when we can, we partner to support another group’s taking the lead. For example, we are members of the SHIP coalition, the Raise It for Health coalition, Minnesotans for Healthy Kids, MinneMinds, and the Tan-Free Teens campaign — all of which have made significantly more headway at the Capitol in recent years than we could have on our own. We have also supported events sponsored by the Minnesota Breastfeeding Coalition and the Minnesota Safety Council. These and other organizations rely on the support and partnership of our chapter to accomplish shared goals.

We take the lead on those pediatric topics when no one else will take the lead. Recognizing that taking on too many topics limits our success in any, we aim to focus our resources on 1 to 4 topics in this way each year. They vary from year to year depending on immediacy, a compelling consensus toward specific action, and locus of responsibility. The latter refers to whether MNAAP is the one and only one to take the lead.

So what are you to do as a member if the initiative you want to pursue is not on our short list for this year? One suggestion is to communicate with our policy committee. It’s open to all members. That committee is particularly focused on making changes within the legislature. Another suggestion is to join an existing workgroup. A lot of advocacy work needs to occur outside the Capitol—with our members, with parents, and with others who care for children.

Of course, our chapter would welcome appropriate educational material to be posted on our website under resources for parents or resources for clinics. We can also get the word out through our Facebook and Twitter feed, Minnesota Pediatrician newsletter and all-member emails.

Also, you might consider applying for grants through our chapter. We have low administrative costs and our staff consultants can help you write and submit those grants. We have a great track record for such submissions.

I’d like to hear from you about the initiatives you care about most. We will be surveying our membership again this fall. That’s one way to share your thoughts. But I welcome you to write me directly as well. Take time to participate in the life of the chapter. Your participation can change how our chapter leadership views opportunities and considerations. You will make a difference.

Annual Sponsors

Children's Minnesota
Gillette Children's
Hennepin Healthcare
University of Minnesota Health
Essentia Health
Mayo Clinic
Shriners Healthcare for Children-Twin Cities