Family Advocacy Week 2020: “Kids’ Health, Our Future”

This past summer, over 50 patient families from 37 children’s hospitals in 22 states gathered virtually via the Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week to advocate for children’s health with federal lawmakers. For many families, the experience marked the first time they had ever spoken with their elected officials.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to meet with our lawmakers and to share Eden’s childhood cancer journey story with them,” says Eden’s mom, Shannon Green. Her daughter Eden receives care at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “Participating in an event like Family Advocacy Week with so many other kids and families conveyed to Congress that they really need to pay attention to what kids need – health insurance that covers preexisting conditions and access to pediatric services at children’s hospitals. And it didn’t hurt to remind them that it’s an election year.”

Nearly 50% of all children rely on the state-federal Medicaid program for health insurance coverage. Medicaid provides unique benefits to children that support their immediate and long-term health and wellbeing. Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, many states are considering how to reduce Medicaid spending. Cuts to Medicaid could impact children in negative ways giving parents even more to worry about during the pandemic.

Another key element to supporting children’s health is timely access to pediatric services and trained professionals like pediatricians. Over 7,000 pediatricians are trained annually at children’s hospitals with the help of a federal grant program. That program, however, is underfunded and the long-term result is shortages of physicians who provide specialized care to children, for example pediatric psychiatrists.

“Theodore sees a team of ten pediatric specialists for his heart condition,” explains Theodore’s dad, Tyler Hartrick. “They work as a team to ensure Theodore receives high quality, integrated care. If we didn’t have access to these doctors at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, I’m not sure Theodore would be alive today.”

By the end of Family Advocacy Week, patient families logged 200 meetings with senators and representatives. They also shared videos with each other and talked about how they represent the future of this country. Through news reports and social media, family stories were shared with millions of people to help build awareness of how national decisions on health policy must account for the needs of kids.

So the next time you talk to a child about their health and wellbeing, remember -- they are the future!

Watch our video recap of Family Advocacy Week 2020 below:

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