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Advocates in Rhode Island Leverage Relationships with the American Academy of Pediatrics for Policy Wins for Children and Families

Strong partnerships are at the core of advocacy. Nowhere is that clearer than in Rhode Island, where early childhood policy advocates at Rhode Island Kids Count and the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (RIAAP) are working together to help educate communities and policymakers on the importance of child health and early intervention. Pediatricians are trusted messengers who can provide a clinical perspective to policy advocacy in service to improving child health and development outcomes, and Rhode Island advocates have forged a decade-long relationship with local pediatricians such as Dr. Patricia Flanagan and Dr. Pamela High, which has led to children’s health and well-being policy wins.

Dr. High is RIAAP’s designated AAP Early Childhood Chapter Champion – a pediatrician and member of a state AAP chapter who serves as an advocate for young children and families. As an AAP Early Childhood Chapter Champion, Dr. High shares best practices, has knowledge of current guidelines in each advocacy focus area and serves as a link to other providers in the community with a similar interest. Additionally, Dr. High serves on the Rhode Island Early Learning Council and the boards of Rhode Island Kids Count and Reach Out and Read Rhode Island.

In Rhode Island, elevating the voices of pediatricians has proven valuable by providing direct service expertise to child health advocacy. Rhode Island Kids Count works with the RIAAP chapter to collect stories from pediatricians that elevate the lived experiences of the communities they serve. Advocates have shared these stories through op-eds, social media features, and research briefs that gain the attention of state lawmakers.

These efforts have led to wins for:

  • Paid family leave
  • Earned sick leave
  • Doula coverage
  • Child Care and Pre-K/Head Start
  • Early Childhood Special Education
  • Maternal mental health/postpartum coverage extension
  • Home visiting
  • Oral Health

Dr. Flanagan created a one-month required rotation named “Advocating for Child Health in The Community” with Brown University to create a pipeline of pediatric advocates. During this rotation, Rhode Island Kids Count partners with RIAAP to present to medical students on how advocacy and policy process works and can lead to better policies and outcomes. This programming has led to strong connections with emerging pediatricians in the field. Medical interns who participate in the advocacy rotation understand the impact advocacy and partnerships can have in their careers and their communities.

For advocates who want to learn more about how AAP state chapters can serve as partners in early childhood policy education and advancement, please contact Jeff Hudson at jhudson@aap.org. AAP also has available a webinar that provides an overview of the Early Childhood Chapter Champions program, an AAP Council on Early Childhood, and numerous AAP early childhood resources.