The American Academy of Pediatrics is the foremost trade association for physicians and other health professionals specializing in pediatrics. In fulfillment of its trademark slogan “Dedicated to the Health of All Children,” the 60,000 member strong AAP holds conferences, issues many publications, and maintains websites, including HealthyChildren.org, which provides health care information and guidance for parents and caregivers, written in a way that is accessible to laypeople.
An important part of the AAP’s mission is research. The AAP and three other organizations (the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, and the American Pediatric Association), jointly known as the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS), sponsor research in the following medical areas:
* Adolescent Medicine
* Allergy & Immunology & Rheumatology
* Behavioral/Developmental Pediatrics
* Critical Care
* Developmental Biology
* Emergency Medicine
* Endocrinology & Diabetes (Basic Research)
* Endocrinology & Diabetes (Clinical Research)
* General Pediatrics & Preventive Pediatrics
* Genetics/Inborn Error of Metabolism
* Infectious Diseases
* Medical Education
* Neonatal Epidemiology & Follow up
* Neonatal Fetal Nutrition & Metabolism
* Neonatal Infectious Diseases/Immunology
* Neonatal Neurology
* Neonatal Pulmonology
* Neonatology – General
But a perusal of some recent research projects gives an even better sense of what the PAS studies than one can glean merely from this list of subject areas. The 2010 PAS meeting included presentations on dozens of specific topics, including:
* “Infection and the Neonatal Brain”
* “Genetic Basis of Disease”
* “Autism Spectrum Disorders Research”
* “Controversies in Management of Hyperthyroidism”
* “Health Information Technology: Talk of the Town, and Untapped Potential for Pediatrics”
* “Regulatory Challenges in Pediatric Research”
* “Ethical and Social Implications of Providing Intensive Interventions to Infants for Whom the Clinical or Developmental Prognosis is Uncertain”
* “Child Abuse”
* “Public Health & Prevention: Innovative Interventions & Approaches”
* “Addressing Youth Violence Across the Clinical Spectrum: Prevention and Intervention”
From this sampling, we see that plenty of what the PAS addresses is the sort of “white lab coat,” “roomful of microscopes” stuff about diseases that most folks associate with medical research. (See the first four examples on the list of presentations.)
But what’s striking is how much of what the PAS does goes beyond that type of research. The next two items on the list for instance, having to do with technology and regulation, are not so much about medical conditions directly, as about the practice of medicine and medical research itself.
Beyond that, note how the PAS ventures into areas of politics, sociology, ethics, etc. The bottom four items on the list of presentations are hardly the sorts of things one can find out a lot about with a microscope. Yet if we interpret the purpose of medicine and pediatrics broadly enough (recall the AAP slogan: “Dedicated to the Health of All Children”), certainly such areas are relevant.
Let’s say a certain amount of time and resources devoted to hard core biological and chemical research into cells and viruses and possible new drugs, etc., results in an improvement in the treatment of a certain form of childhood cancer such that 5% of the patients who otherwise would have died from it survive, and many others at least have their life extended slightly and/or have a better quality of life toward the end. Clearly an important and valuable success.
But what if the same amount of time and resources devoted to research into human behavior provided insight that led to a reduction in child abuse or a reduction in gun violence involving children, or a reduction in teenagers driving drunk? Couldn’t those societal improvements do at least as much good for the “Health of All Children” as the new cancer treatment?
So the AAP and the other pediatric organizations that make up the PAS conduct research that covers quite a broad area, but always related to improving the health and wellbeing of children.
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Pediatric Society/Society for Pediatric Research