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What to Watch in 2017

When thinking about my first blog post of the year I decided early on that I wasn’t going to do any clichéd bit on New Year’s Resolutions, a list of stuff to work on with your kids for the year, or how we can all feel better about ourselves as parents. Other folks are surely going to do all of these and do them really well. However, I do think it’s important to mark the turn of the calendar with something, so I thought I’d turn out a few “pediatric health issues to watch” in 2017. These aren’t necessarily brand new or a comprehensive list, but they are topics that I do think we had all better pay attention to this year. I’ll be curious to see if you have any additions.

1. Zika

No one really wants to think about this topic when the weather is cold and the mosquitos are dead, but letmetellya we need to keep our radars up about this—about the local disease surveillance itself (the CDC currently has warnings out for Florida and the Brownsville, Texas area), about the status of the vaccine development (ongoing but with funding problems), and about the long term clinical ramifications of having a whole cohort of microcephalic (small head) (also your first 25cent word of the year) babies with many chronic medical conditions that will last a lifetime. The implications on our health care resources as well as the physical, financial, and emotional toll on parents who care for these babies are all really big unknowns, and while we won’t solve them all this year, as a society we should acknowledge the importance of making progress in the science and understanding of this potentially majorly impactful virus.

2. Children’s Health Insurance Programs

Not sure what the new administration is going to do with healthcare. I’ll leave this right here. All I’ll say is that we need to make sure ALL of our children have access to the healthcare they need. So speak up about it whenever you can.

3. Telemedicine

Bringing clinical care into places OTHER than hospitals, clinics, and offices is already breaking into the mainstream, and I think as the technology gets better and better and people get more comfortable with communication through video, it’s going to be omnipresent—people with difficult access to specialty care will find it easily within their reach, and people searching for “convenient care” at home or in their neighborhoods will have it fit in to the everyday rhythm of their lives. Telemedicine will need to be fine tuned and quality checked, but its potential reach and breadth is awesomely powerful.

4. Screen time for kids

Ok, there may or may not be a personal bent to this one, but I think there’s a real and present danger about how much time kids are spending on electronic devices. My 2 included. I read some interesting research about how the same parts of the brain that get activated in addiction are getting increased signal on PET scans in kids who are using electronics, the implication being that these may have a biological addiction component. Frightening. Difficult to get on top of in our present environment. And I’m not even getting into all the obesity stuff.

5. New breakthroughs

I want to end on a high note because I’m that type of gal. Advances in the management of diabetes, robotic surgery, and genetics are just a few amazing events in pediatric medicine right now, and as they emerge I hope we celebrate our wins. Typically funding for pediatric research is harder to come by than for funding for the more highly publicized and pervasive “adult” diseases, so the more we ring our bells and sound our alarms the more attention we can bring to the needs of our future. Our next generation. Our kids.

Happy New Year, y’all. 2017.

Dr. Christina Happy New Year 2017


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