Archives for May 2016

Legislative Conference

We Care for Kids and We Vote

Last month, pediatricians rallied on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C as part of the 25th Annual American Academy of Pediatrics Legislative Conference.  The meeting focused on ensuring support of the Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act, which would reauthorize funding for critical children’s nutrition programs such as summer feeding programs, school lunches and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Three members from New York AAP Chapter II representing Brooklyn, Suffolk and Nassau were supported by the chapter to attend the conference, learn critical advocacy skills and meet with our federal representatives to remind them of the importance of these programs for children in our region.


(From R to L: NYS AAP members Drs. Yishan Cheng, Gopi Desai and Sara Kopple, with Jamie Poslosky of the AAP)

The Senate Agricultural Committee recently unanimously passed the Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016, which renews funding for the following child nutrition programs:

  1. The AAP is particularly interested in maintaining adjunctive eligibility, which automatically qualifies families for WIC if they receive Medicaid. Currently ~75% of WIC patients are enrolled through this route. The AAP also supports extending eligibility through age 6yrs for those not yet enrolled in kindergarten to prevent a nutritional gap in kids not yet in school and benefitting from school nutrition programs.
  1. School based meals. The current legislation reflects a compromise reached in the Senate on scientifically-based nutrition standards for school meals, which 98% of school s are meeting. Opponents argue that if the nutritional standards are too high, children won’t eat the food and thus money will be wasted.  However, data from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity show children are in fact eating more fruits and vegetables since the new standards were implemented.   The AAP also would like to preserve the “Community Eligibility Provision,” which allows schools in high poverty areas to provide free breakfast and lunch to ALL students, simplifying the enrollment process and decreasing the stigma of requiring school-based food services.
  1. Summer meals. Impoverished children are at greater risk for hunger during the summer months. Only about 15% of children who rely on free or reduced-price school lunch have access to meals in the summer.  The AAP supports increasing access to nutritional assistance in the summer months.


(AAP President at NY Chapter 2 native, Dr. Benard Dreyer addresses conference attendees.)

However, the proposal is stalling before the full Senate and the House of Representatives.  As the input of pediatricians is critical to the re-authorization process, conference attendees heard from Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) about the importance of being strong pediatric advocates.  One major theme of the conference was the need for continuous dialogue with our legislative offices.  It is critical that advocacy not begin and end with this legislative experience.  The goal is establish ourselves as the KEY CHILD HEALTH EXPERTS for our Congressional representatives.

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(Sens. D. Stabenow (D-MI) & P. Roberts (R-KS) address pediatricians at the 25th Annual Legislative Conference earlier this month.)

We then met with staff members from the offices of Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, emphasizing the importance of supporting this childhood nutrition legislation to ensure it receives a full Senate vote and to help the bill progress in the House of Representatives.

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(Drs. Yishan Cheng, Gopi Desai and Sara Kopple at Congressional Offices on Capitol Hill earlier this month)

Since the Senate has a working bill in place, it is important for all New York Pediatricians to call upon their Representatives in the House to act swiftly.  Members of the Chapter’s advocacy committee have met with several key representatives in our AAP Chapter on this issue including Reps. Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Lee Zeldin, Steve Israel, Pete King and Kathleen Rice.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who gained national attention as the chief pediatric advocate for children affected by lead-contaminated water in Flint, MI also attended the conference as a luncheon keynote speaker, inspiring us to speak up and act on behalf of children. She emphasized the need for ongoing support for families affected by the Flint tragedy to ensure comprehensive long term care for affected children.

Her lesson to us all: You are the expert on kids. You are not alone in advocacy. Be prepared.

We also attended several advocacy skill-building workshops, including Speak up for Kids at the Ballot Box: Advocating for Children in an Election Year. There we learned about the importance of encouraging everyone to vote in this very important election. Some ideas everyone can take home are:

  1. Start planning now – Make sure you and your friends are registered to vote. If you’re not sure, this is a great website to check your status:
  1. If you’re not registered, check your state’s registration policies so that you don’t miss any deadlines. This is the information for New York:
  1. Ensure you have time off from work to vote. If you’re a resident, work with your program director to find coverage so that everyone who can and wants to vote is able.
  1. Encourage those in your community to vote! You can set up a voter registration table in your clinic waiting room and encourage parents to vote; you can do the same at a local health fair as well.
  1. Use social media to encourage friends and colleagues to vote too!

The National American Academy of Pediatrics will be using its social media resources to encourage pediatricians to vote this year.  The Chapter will be amplifying this message via its social media, internet and email resources.  On Election Day, the Academy will encourage pediatricians to post photos of themselves voting to Twitter.