Establishing a pediatric advisory council or children’s preparedness coalition where pediatric and public health leaders and practitioners decide together what actions are required to protect children in the event of a disaster can promote effective decision-making regardless of the type of emergency or disaster. These committees or coalitions can:
- Participate in an analysis of the current Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) activities in your state. See the EMSC Innovation & Improvement Center for state contacts.
- Identify priorities for children and solution-oriented suggestions for system change, based on nationally recognized standards such as those identified by the National Commission on Children and Disasters.
- Inform and educate state decision-makers and the community.
- Help identify pediatric and public health representatives who can serve on other relevant state project task forces.
- Create networking opportunities with local pediatricians, other pediatric care providers, public health decision-makers, and state partners.
- Contribute to ongoing discussions and offer updates and enhancements to key federal reports.
Members of Pediatric Advisory Councils or Children’s Preparedness Coalitions
At the very least, a pediatric advisory council or children’s preparedness coalition should include a:
- Pediatrician point person with a connection to the relevant state AAP chapter.
- Public health leader in a position of making key decisions during an emergency or disaster.
- Community pediatrician or primary care pediatrician.
- Mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or counselor) who regularly works with children.
- Family representatives.
Although a small working group or coalition of pediatric health leaders should guide the discussions and decision-making when developing or implementing an action plan, there is value in having this core group identify and connect with a larger group of pediatric experts.
Think broadly and creatively about who might be identified to participate in this work. Pediatric care providers understand the needs of children, and they have transferrable skills that can be used in an emergency when local services are overwhelmed and resources are scarce.
- A community pediatrician or primary care pediatrician can ensure that clinical recommendations are appropriate for use in a pediatric office practice.
- A pediatric dentist can be a crucial addition to the team. After the 2011 tornados in Alabama, it was a pediatric dentist who worked in local emergency department to help with lacerations and trauma care.
- A pediatric infectious disease expert or critical care specialist can provide expertise on children at highest risk during an infectious disease outbreak or pandemic.
- Pediatric anesthesiologists, emergency physicians, and surgeons can help with planning for mass casualty situations.
- Various resources about community collaborations are available from the AAP Council on Community Pediatrics.
Sustaining Pediatric Advisory Councils and Children’s Preparedness Coalitions
Initiating or establishing a council or coalition can be easier than sustaining these collaborations during times when there are not active disasters. Ideally, it is best to connect this effort to a standing committee or group that meets on a regular basis. The following additional strategies may be useful in sustaining a committee or council over time:
- Provide open membership to all interested pediatric volunteers.
- Identify and secure funding and other resources (eg, person to serve as a point person or “driver,” resources to support food/meeting room).
- Establish a relationship with the state/territory EMSC grantee.
- Develop teams or task forces to address select national or state-specific issues.
- Maintain communications by sharing meeting proceedings and status of actions with all appropriate stakeholders.
- Include public health representatives or establish a mechanism to report back to the state department of health point person. A connection to the state Hospital Preparedness Program is one option.
- Consider ways to leverage discussions into training opportunities, perhaps to satisfy continuing medical education requirements.
- Explore ways to infuse use of pediatric requirements or child victims into ongoing drills and exercises. Consider ways to implement a pediatric-specific drill.
Existing Pediatric Advisory Councils
American Academy of Pediatrics