Pediatric Associates of the NW Blogs

Turning Hopes Into Action

Peter Reed, MD, MPH, FAAP
January 28, 2020 05:00PM

As I write this blog article, it is a deeply unsettling time. In America, the income gap is widening and about one child in five lives below the federal poverty line. The country is starkly divided on party lines and the President is on trial, making it difficult to advance policies that benefit children. Around the world, it is becoming harder for the human race to work together on the existential challenges of climate change, infectious disease, nuclear proliferation, and poverty.


At times like these, it can be tempting to turn inward, to stop reading the news, to withdraw from civic engagement, to think that your voice and your vote will not make a difference. It can, of course, be therapeutic to focus on home and family instead. Even while there is discord in politics and the world, we can celebrate our personal successes and rejoice in the growth, development, and achievements of our children. But it can also be therapeutic to turn outward and choose to engage with our communities to shape the world for the better. The remedy for apathy is action.


At the turn of the new year, Pediatric Associates of the Northwest providers shared our hopes for children around the world. These included: having strong role models, learning to be givers and healers, having a place to call home, living without poverty, having a natural world free from pollution, having access to healthy foods, having the opportunity to achieve their goals and dreams, attending schools without fear of violence, having a loving adult in their lives, having a safe and peaceful place to sleep, having a safe place to play outside, being asked what makes them happy and proud, and having productive and peaceful lives.


Upon reading these hopes, it struck me that, collectively, they hew very closely to the United Nations 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child and to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (which, I acknowledge, is not without criticism). These hopes encompass physiologic needs, security, belonging, and aspiration. And while these were stated as hopes, these are also goals for action.


At Pediatric Associates of the Northwest, we address many of these goals during well-child checks. We talk a lot about sleep and nutrition. We help to assess readiness for school. We discuss vaccinations. We encourage participation in sports and other extracurriculars. We ask about a child’s ambitions, not out of idle curiosity, but to model and engage in conversation that encourages kids and young adults to think big and to aspire.


For all of us, this is meaningful work. But, we also take our efforts to our local and global communities: organizing and participating in charity events, advocating for changes in laws to improve kids’ lives, collaborating with other pediatricians to elevate the quality of pediatric care, traveling to medically underserved communities to provide much-needed care. For me, this kind of work and taking action to improve the world helps me to cope with difficult times.


So, if current events and the news are getting you down, I encourage you to first take care of your needs and rejoice in your children - then turn your hopes into engagement, and bring your kids along. Action is the antidote to apathy.


For volunteer ideas, this is a good resource.