NAPNAP 2012: It's All about Healthy Kids


Dr. Judith Palfrey challenged everyone to imagine what a nation of health kids would be like in the opening session of the 2012 NAPNAP Conference. The issue is, she stated, "You can't get any place if you don't know where you are going; try it."

The opening session of the 2012 NAPNAP Conference set an inspirational tone that carried throughout many of the later sessions. Dr. Judith Palfrey, T. Berry Brazelton professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; senior associate of medicine, Children’s Hospital of Boston; and past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), challenged everyone to imagine what a nation of health kids would be like. The issue is, she stated, “You can’t get any place if you don’t know where you are going; try it.”

Dr. Palfrey’s address focused on a concept advocated by pediatrician and former US Surgeon General, Julius Richmond (1916-2008)—that sustaining a nation of healthy children must involve the integration of three factors: 1) knowledge, 2) political will, and 3) social strategies. She explained that while many had talked about these ideas individually, Dr. James made the point that these have to be executed interactively and at the same time to effect change.

Establishing the knowledge base is the easy part. Dr. Palfrey spent the first third of the talk reviewing the basics gaps in pediatric health care. Using specific examples, she demonstrated that political will can impact, for the good or bad, US children’s health care policy. Talking about recent health care reform, she reflected, “I was president of AAP at the time of the health care reform and I was impressed by the ways in which people spoke up because they wanted to be sure kids were included.” On the not-so-bright side, the share of the federal domestic budget that is focused on children has fallen from 20% to 10% since 1960. In 2007 UNICEF ranked the US last among 21 industrialized nations in terms of health and safety (measured by infant mortality, birth weight, immunization, and accidental deaths).

Dr. Palfrey served as the executive director of Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! initiative in 2011. She reviewed this program, and others, as examples of social strategies being put into practice to address the nation’s current obesity epidemic. Closing the session, Palfrey encouraged everyone to keep active. She even did a few jumping jacks, to the delight of the audience.

Other social strategy resources toward improving nutrition


USDA Web site

Healthier US School Challenge

Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA)

Growing Power

American Academy of Pediatrics Web site, nutrition page

“Obesity is a multiproblem that will take multiple people to solve. It is going to require a partnership.”

-Dr. Judith Palfrey

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