Let’s build ‘a Canada crazy for its kids’
Posted on Jul 27 2015 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink
On June 26 at the CPS Annual General Meeting, Dr. Robin Williams shared her goals and priorities as she begins her one-year term as CPS President. The following is an excerpt from her address.
Many of you have volunteered with the CPS, on the edges of your desks and the margins of your life, working to improve the quality of care for children through teaching and training, through the development of guidance statements and practice points, and through your committee and section work. For that, I thank you.
But the opportunities provided to all of us through the CPS are ALSO to be part of something bigger than ourselves—to be part of an engine for change. The problems today for Canadian children cannot be solved one person at a time or one child at a time. Policies, programs and how resources are distributed all contribute to preventing disease, promoting health and addressing the determinants of health. You can’t solve child poverty, inadequate housing or a poor living wage in your office. For these problems, our collective voice is important.
So as we continue to move forward together, I see five priorities:
- Mental health promotion, particularly infant mental health promotion: The early beginning of mental health and well-being for children and youth begins antenatally. With each visit, we see the child and the family’s development. This is directly in our bailiwick of influence—it is our bread and butter as we promote the mental wellness of moms and dads, and the strong functioning of families. We can promote and support breastfeeding and secure attachment, positive parenting, pro-literacy and language activities and play-based learning, all in safe environments. Strengthening the early environment through our multiple contacts with infants, young children and families, guided by the physician-prompt Rourke Baby Record, enhancing the 18-month well-baby visit and encourage connections to community resources—these are all part of our role.
- Addressing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: This Commission’s report has landed on our watch. With its profoundly moving stories, recounting the history of the residential schools, and with its recommendations, it is a show stopper. I can’t imagine a knock at the door and having my three sons taken away to a residential school, run by strangers with a strange language, strange culture, in a strange and abusive world.
Layering on our early child development lens, knowing that the trauma of the residential school experience has the power to alter DNA and its expression, leaving grave cognitive and behaviour problems, we have a special understanding of the horrendous impact on children and on subsequent generations. We know bad environments can turn genes on and off, affecting life choices, the experience of risk, and one’s ability to prepare and plan.
So we have a unique paediatric voice to add to the Canadian conversation and help mitigate the impact for communities and for all children at risk. We will work with our First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health Committee and link with others to review the TRC recommendations and determine where we can take action. Beyond our ongoing advocacy for the full and meaningful implementation of Jordan’s Principle, there is much we can do to contribute to the fulfillment of the 94 recommendations.
- Creating a federal “point person” for kids: Some call it a Federal Commissioner for Children and Youth. We’ve been round this before but as Jen Arnold encouraged in her Think Big talk- never give up! What I see is the need for a designated leadership role on behalf of kids at a federal level—someone who scans the horizon and tells us how our children are doing, or not doing, and how they should be doing. This is someone who can watch and protect the resources for children, as well as the programs that we know work (like the safe and effective vaccination programs we already have, and gets the resources for cognitive behavior therapy funding, which is unfunded but we know works). We need someone apolitical who can gather us together for healthy conversations and debate about fair resources and innovative programs for kids (their fair share as we compete for resources with the voting seniors). I want someone who CARES for all Canadian children, so that we can truly be a Canada that is crazy about its kids.
- A focus on our priority projects: We have several health promotion initiatives that need sustained efforts: healthy active living and outdoor play, and promoting healthy growth and development in a digital world. Our “choosing wisely” for children project. And regardless, we need to nurture our partnerships with all the various stakeholders and leverage our influence for things like a national child care strategy. Remember, all political parties are in listening mode at the moment. So speak for kids: your voice carries a special weight, probably more than you realize. You never know what might stick.
- A focus on CPS as a leading organization: Finally, we need to continue to keep “the home fires burning.” We are working together to build a sustainable organization that is sensitive to you and your needs and adds value for to your professional life—developing relevant and timely guidelines and practice points, and the successful Paediatrics & Child Health journal. We have been without a Medical Affairs Director since the death of our beloved Dr. Danielle Grenier last September, but now as she would have wished, we are ready to move on with a successor. I am looking forward to working closely with Dr. Charlotte Moore Hepburn in the months to come as she assumes her new role with the CPS.
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