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Poll: Children's Needs Should be Prioritized in Disaster Planning, Response and Recovery Efforts

10/22/2010

CHICAGO - Most Americans believe children should be given a higher priority in disaster planning and response, according to the results of a nationwide survey released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The poll found:

  • 76 percent of Americans agree that if resources are limited, children should be given a higher priority for life-saving treatments

  • 75 percent believe that if tough decisions must be made, life-saving treatments should be provided to children rather than adults with the same medical condition

  • 92 percent agree that if there were a terrorist attack, our country should have the same medical treatments readily available for children as are now available for adults

Yet, the country’s strategic national stockpile of medical countermeasures that can be used to respond to a range of biomedical threats is significantly lacking in medications for children – much of what is available to treat adults is unavailable in doses or preparations approved for use by children.

The AAP coordinated the national survey in partnership with the Children’s Health Fund. A six-question telephone survey of 1,030 U.S. residents was conducted Sept. 30 through Oct. 5, 2010. The majority of people surveyed in all groups supported giving higher priority to children and their needs over adults. Opinions remained consistent across various demographics, including region, household income, education, age, race, gender and political party.

“The AAP’s views about prioritizing children’s needs during disasters are shared by the American people,” said AAP President O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP. “Children represent about 25 percent of the U.S. population. The poll shows that the general public believes we must be better prepared to meet the physical and mental health needs of children in the aftermath of a disaster. Focused attention and federal resources including continuation of the work of the National Commission on Children and Disasters are key to improving this situation.”

The poll comes on the heels of an October 6 report delivered to the President and Congress by the National Commission on Children and Disasters, which highlighted persistent gaps in disaster preparedness for children. The Commission calls for the development of a national strategy to ensure children are given a higher priority before, during and after disasters. The report includes more than 100 recommendations to federal, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations to improve protections for children.

Irwin Redlener, MD, FAAP, president of the Children’s Health Fund, stated “Not only is prioritizing the needs of children the right thing to do, it is an essential part of disaster planning in general. Failing to understand and respond to the needs of children in emergencies can undermine the entire response plan.”

“The fundamental needs of children can be anticipated, and we must prepare to meet those needs,” said Steven Krug, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council. “There is still much to be done to improve pediatric emergency preparedness and our ability to meet the needs of children during disaster response and recovery.”

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.