Barbara Boughton

October 16, 2012

October 16, 2012 — Clinicians attending the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2012 National Conference and Exhibition, being held October 20 to 23 in New Orleans, Louisiana, will hear the news and controversies surrounding a number of "hot topics."

Some of the hottest are likely to be how to deal with pediatric drug shortages, how to close the gap in health disparities, and how to treat mental illness in children, including posttraumatic stress disorder, according to Robert Cicco, MD, chair of the conference planning group.

"In the future, health disparities will be an increasing issue of concern to pediatricians, so we'll be presenting a number of plenary talks and discussions on how to provide culturally effective care and work with communities to minimize health disparities," Dr. Cicco said.

Neal Halfon, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities at the University of California, Los Angeles, will give a plenary lecture on the program to transform early childhood community systems, which aims to integrate healthcare, child care and early education, and family support systems in diverse communities. The program is a research-based effort designed to prompt community-based action toward enhancing early brain and child development before kindergarten.

Researchers at the meeting will also present abstracts on issues such as cardiac problems in newborns, medical errors that occur when residents hand off cases to another shift, and the use of caffeine for preterm infants and those with apnea of prematurity, according to Sergio Golombek, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and clinical public health at New York Medical College in Valhalla. Dr. Golombek coordinated the selection of almost 90 neonatology abstracts that will be presented in oral and poster sessions at the conference.

"We all use caffeine for prematurity, and we know it provides benefits. But the abstracts being presented at the meeting show the impact of caffeine on outcomes for small-for-gestational-age infants and the effect of different dosages on apnea of prematurity," Dr. Golombek said.

Other abstracts to be presented include a 22-year review of complex congenital heart disease cases at the Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and a study on the effect of early indomethacin prophylaxis for intraventricular hemorrhage in low-birthweight infants.

In another study to be presented, researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, found that there are considerable errors in patient care when residents hand off cases to another shift. "This issue is worrisome. The researchers did find that written hand-offs from daily notes reduced some of the mistakes. In the future, the use of IT combined with staff expertise can hopefully reduce some of these errors," Dr. Golombek added.

Other issues that pediatricians are concerned about — including pediatric drug shortages and the potential neurotoxic effects of anesthesia in children — will be discussed at the meeting, Dr. Cicco said. "Many pediatricians are finding that even though they want to provide effective care, there are certain medications that are not available to them. We'll be discussing the reasons these shortages are occurring," he added.

Another subject likely to attract attention at the meeting is orthopedic injuries in children, including guidelines on when it's safe for children who have sustained injuries to return to playing sports and the use of neuromuscular training in recovery.

Each year, the AAP devotes an increasing part of its program to psychiatric concerns in children. "We're realizing the dramatic effect that children's mental health has on their health and productivity as they get older and become adults," Dr. Cicco said. This year, the emphasis will be on posttraumatic stress disorder — how to identify students at risk and get them the clinical services they need.

New scientific advances in the understanding of autism will also be a hot topic at the meeting, particularly because genomic sequencing studies are pointing to the strong role that genetics plays in the development of the disease.

The meeting will also touch on political concerns, Dr. Cicco noted. There will be sessions that educate clinicians on the changes in pediatric care that the healthcare reform law will bring, and discussion of what each presidential candidate's agenda might mean for children's healthcare.

"The common thread running through the conference is how we as pediatricians can ensure that children in this country are being treated in a safe environment and an environment that is focused on what their needs are, so that our children can become productive adults," Dr. Cicco said.

Dr. Cicco and Dr. Golombek have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.