In hospital corridors, it is easy to spot a pediatrician a mile away. It’s the adornments—the miniature bear on the stethoscope, the Mickey Mouse earrings, the comical tie. But caring for children differs from caring for adults in more ways than the clinician’s appearance. Caring for children involves a different set of diseases, such as congenital anomalies, different concerns, such as developmental issues, and different treatments. Yet, despite the differences, the health of children should be of great interest to all physicians, even those wearing scrubs or suits in hospital corridors. The health of children reflects many of the social problems facing the nation and foreshadows the health of adult patients tomorrow. In addition, key approaches to child health have implications for changes in the health care system.
Child health is inextricably linked to social problems. Of the 74 million children and adolescents in the United States today (23% of the population), 22% live in poverty.1 Growing up amid poverty or violence has been associated with mental and physical illness.2 For instance, child abuse has been associated with depression, eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, and drug use in adults.3 Policies to address these problems, such as providing preschool, health insurance, or housing, will have consequences for their families. Prevention efforts directed at social problems have been demonstrated to improve health outcomes. For example, a program providing prenatal and early childhood home visits for low-income families has been shown to reduce injuries, substance use, and mortality through 20 years of follow-up.4
In addition to social problems, exposures, behaviors, and illnesses beginning in childhood can affect health throughout the lifespan. For example, poor diet and lack of exercise are associated with obesity in children. Currently 16% of children are obese.5 Obese children frequently become obese adults6 who are at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of mortality in the United States. Maternal smoking during pregnancy can affect pulmonary function of the infant7 and increase the risk of asthma and chronic lung disease throughout life.
Prevention and the patient-centered medical home have been the cornerstones of child health for decades and are major priorities of the Affordable Care Act. The success of prevention and the medical home in child health may be instructive for other physicians. Vaccines have reduced the prevalence of many infectious diseases and their sequelae and hold promise to prevent other diseases as well; human papillomavirus vaccine has been associated with a reduction in condyloma8 and may prevent cervical cancer. Safety seats and bicycle helmets for children have been shown to prevent injury and future disability and yield net societal cost savings.9 Most practices that care for children are open 6 or 7 days a week, and a clinician is almost always available to return telephone calls from anxious parents.
Given the long-term and wide-ranging implications of the health of infants, children, and adolescents, JAMA will dedicate an issue to the topic of child health to be published in April 2015. This issue will represent the third consecutive year of publishing a theme issue on this important topic, and as with the previous issues, the 2015 theme issue on child health will coincide with the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.
We invite authors to submit manuscripts reporting the results of research on health and disease in infants, children, and adolescents, particularly studies with strong designs, such as randomized clinical trials and prospective cohort studies. Investigations of long-term outcomes and prevention efforts are welcome. Submission of manuscripts reporting findings from studies with policy implications is also encouraged. In addition, other types of articles, such as rigorous systematic reviews and scholarly Viewpoints on clinical and policy topics, will be considered. High-quality manuscripts determined to not have priority for publication in JAMA may be referred to JAMA Pediatrics or another JAMA Network journal for further consideration.
Articles submitted by November 24, 2014, will have the best chance for consideration for inclusion in the 2015 theme issue. Authors should consult the Instructions for Authors10 for information on manuscript preparation and submission.
We look forward to receiving your manuscripts for the 2015 theme issue as we continue to focus attention on the important issue of child health, with the hope of providing research findings and other information that will help advance and improve the health of children today and perhaps the health of the nation in the future.
Corresponding Author: Jody W. Zylke, MD, JAMA, 330 N Wabash Ave, Ste 39300, Chicago, IL 60611-5885 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.
Zylke JW. Child Health Theme Issue 2015Call for Papers. JAMA. 2014;312(11):1103-1104. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.10835