Using Technology to Improve Child Health at AAP 2018

Fran Lowry

October 23, 2018

ORLANDO — Using new technologies to transform child health will be the leading theme at the upcoming American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2018 National Conference.

A highlight will be a 4-hour preconference session dedicated to technology and child health, said Cassandra Pruitt, MD, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who is a member of the conference planning committee.

Attendees will learn "how to leverage technology" to better manage patients and to "improve child health in many ways," she told Medscape Medical News. "I think this is going to be very interesting to most pediatricians because there is so much technology out there."

For example, "telehealth technology allows us to see the patient remotely, and there are tools that are specifically set up to allow doctors to do a patient evaluation without having the patient with them," Pruitt, a pediatric hospitalist, explained.

Antibullying Movement

"Some days, it feels like there are a lot of challenges in providing pediatric care. Probably every pediatrician has their version of this," said Pruitt. "We often struggle with underserved populations and people who have been marginalized."

Lizzie Velasquez, who was born with neonatal progeroid syndrome, which prevents her from accumulating body fat and gaining weight, will be one of the featured speakers.

She endured bullying from an early age and was labeled the "world's ugliest woman" in a video posted online when she was 17, but turned this negativity into positive action by creating an antibullying movement.

"She is an inspiration, spreading messages of acceptance, kindness, and love," said Pruitt. "I'm sure that many of us have patients who might have been bullied, so hearing about someone else's experience will help us learn what we can do with those patients."

"It's challenging to be a pediatrician in this current climate, so I think there's a lot of stuff in this meeting to remind you of why you need to keep on doing what you do," she added.

The keynote address will be delivered by Adam Foss, JD, a former assistant district attorney in the juvenile division of the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in Boston.

Foss advocates for criminal justice reform, with a particular emphasis on redefining the role of the prosecutor to help end mass incarceration. He has collaborated with the courts and the community to develop programs that have had a positive impact on distressed neighborhoods in the Boston area.

And an approach to the care of transgender youth that facilitates mutual respect between patient and healthcare provider will be described by Norman Spack, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist from Brookline, Massachusetts.

On the final day of the conference, Mark Barden, a cofounder of Sandy Hook Promise, will discuss ways to create a safer future for children and communities.

Barden dedicated his life to finding sensible solutions to gun violence after his son, Daniel, 19 other first-graders, and six teachers were killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Online Reviews

In addition, "there will be a session on how to handle online challenges to your professional reputation," said Jennifer Shu, MD, from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, who is chair of the planning group for the conference.

"This is a big one for professionals," she said. "What do you do about negative reviews? How do you cope with trolls who are antivaccine?"

Elizabeth Meade, MD, from the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, and Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, from Seattle Children's Hospital, will speak during this "fabulous session," Shu told Medscape Medical News.

During another session, attendees will learn how to talk to parents about vaccines and discuss strategies to address vaccine hesitancy.

The opioid epidemic will also be addressed. "Sadly, this is something that most of us have to deal with. This session will provide some important insights and coping strategies," said Shu.

Special events for accompanying spouses and children will take advantage of the meeting's location.

This year, the annual Community Cares Project, which takes place before the official start of the conference, will benefit the Give Kids the World Village, an 84-acre nonprofit resort in nearby Kissimmee that provides weeklong vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families at no cost. Participating families will create props for themed parties like Halloween and Winter Wonderland.

There will also be the popular 5k Fun Run & Walk. And at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park, participants can take advantage of unlimited access to all rides and attractions, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade; Skull Island: Reign of Kong; the Jurassic Park River Adventure; and the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

"There is so much at this meeting, and there truly is something for everyone," said Pruitt. "It's overwhelming how much education is provided in just 4 days."

Pruitt and Shu have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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