Looking Back: Pediatric Medicine Policy in 2023

The world of pediatric medicine is constantly evolving, with new challenges and opportunities emerging all the time. From the use of AI in pediatric medicine to environmental concerns and shifting demographics, lawmakers and pediatric advocacy groups understand that policies need to be adaptable and responsive to these changes. Looking back at 2023, here are five key events in the pediatric policy landscape.

  • Expansion of HIV screening recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its HIV screening recommendations to extend the upper age limit from 18 to 21 years. The previous recommendation called for screenings for adolescents aged 15 to 18. This change aligns with recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force and reflects the growing recognition of HIV infection among adolescents and young adults. The academy also considered the availability of new and more effective HIV treatment options, and believe the change can improve health outcomes associated with diagnosis and transmission.

  • Increased focus on mental health. There has been a growing focus on mental health in pediatric medicine in recent years, which is reflected in a number of 2023 policy changes. Telehealth funding increased and regulations were relaxed to increase child access to mental health care, especially in underserved areas. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provided $1 billion to support and expand school-based mental health services. There was also proposed legislation to expand Medicaid coverage for mental health services and develop new programs to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents.

  • New guidance on over-the-counter medications. The AAP issued new guidance on the use of over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications in children. The guidance recommends against the use of these medications in children under the age of 6, and urges parents to carefully read the labels of all OTC medications before giving them to their children. Previously, the AAP recommended that children ages 4 – 6 could be given these types of medications as long as the child’s doctor or healthcare provider approved. Additionally, the AAP does not recommend prescribing decongestants to children under the age of 12.

  • Proposed reforms to Medicaid and CHIP. The AAP released a new policy statement calling for sweeping reforms to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The proposal calls for improved equity and access to care, enhanced quality and scope of services, and increased funding. The extensive changes proposed includes automatic enrollment of newborns, elimination of eligibility cliffs and standardized benefits across all states.

  • Addressing vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy is a growing concern among parents, and pediatricians are playing a key role in addressing this issue. The AAP launched a number of new resources to help pediatricians talk to families about vaccines and answer their questions, as well as educational materials for parents. The organization also released new policy statements regarding how pediatricians should deal with vaccine-hesitant parents. They recognize that doctor – parent trust is essential, and recommend against categorically dismissing patients for vaccine refusal alone.
While it is important to remember that it takes time to see the full impact of policy changes like these, the growing recognition of children’s unique requirements and the need to address disparities offer the potential for significant progress in the coming years.