Advances in pediatric research have significantly reduced deaths and improved the quality of life for families worldwide over prior decades. Researchers are now poised to achieve even greater medical accomplishments, buoyed by the use of new technology-based tools, including electronic health records that will assist in longitudinal data collection, according to an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
"The Next Seven Achievements in Pediatric Research," to be published in the May 2017 Pediatrics, reflects on the progress that has been made and predicts the next great research breakthroughs for children's health. The article (published online April 21) emphasizes the need for continued federal support and focus on child health research. Emerging new risks such as the Zika virus, obesity epidemic and exposure to adverse childhood experiences threaten to shorten the lifespans of the next generation without a science-based approach, the authors state.
"We must continue the momentum that has brought us life-saving immunizations, reduced infant deaths and increased life expectancy for children because of newly discovered treatments and preventive measures," said Tina Cheng, MD, MPH, FAAP, lead author. "We are on the edge of exciting new initiatives that can move forward only with support for research, physician training and data collection improvements."
In 2015, the AAP Committee on Pediatric Research highlighted seven great achievements in pediatric research, which were chosen from responses to a survey of pediatric professional organization board members. The seven success stories cited were: preventing disease with life-saving immunizations; reducing sudden infant death with a "Back to Sleep" campaign; finding a cure for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia; helping premature babies breathe with a specific therapy called surfactant; preventing Human Immunodeficiency Virus transmission from mother to baby; increasing the life expectancy for children with Sickle Cell Anemia and Cystic Fibrosis; and saving lives with car seats and seat belts.
The next seven great achievements, the authors predict, will be:
More pediatric immunizations to prevent emerging and persistent diseases
Genomic discoveries to predict, prevent and more effectively treat disease
Recognizing fetal and childhood origins of adult disease before effective early intervention
Understanding how social and environmental conditions affect health to guide population health efforts
Quality improvement initiatives in medical care
Implementation of research knowledge to reduce global poverty
Yet the pediatric research field faces challenges, such as the unique effort needed to include children and teens in clinical research. In addition, the share of funding provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the backbone of the research enterprise at U.S.