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'Open Forums' Helping Peds, Others Connect on Child Development

Local chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say that "Open Forums," a new meeting format, are fostering partnerships between practicing pediatricians and government agencies, elected officials, child health advocates, insurers, and others.

Typically held three to four times a year in various locations around the state, Open Forums have proven to be a highly effective vehicle for exchanging information and airing concerns on a variety of practice-related issues. Pediatricians participating in the forums have been able to foster relationships with government administrators and child health advocates; identify the benefits and drawbacks of various developmental screening tools; work with families and communities to advance early childhood development plans; and discuss issues related to reimbursement. Specific topics have ranged from immunizations and obesity to behavioral and mental health services.

Thanks in part to a grant from The Commonwealth Fund, AAP is spreading the Open Forum concept to more chapters around the country. Eight state AAP chapters received $1,000 each to plan and implement at least two Open Forums during 2006 focused on issues around early childhood development.

"The Open Forums have provided us with a great opportunity to meet with peers and community leaders in order to develop strategies to improve the well-being of our children," said Puerto Rico chapter president Olga de los A. Rodriguez, M.D.

Iowa chapter president Jody Murph, M.D., noted that the forums have helped to focus attention on early childhood concerns "in a comprehensive and inclusive approach that includes health care providers, public and private insurers, mental health providers, the public health community, state legislators, and the governor's office."

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