by Julie M. Linton, M.D., FAAP
Pediatricians are natural advocates. We communicate with our patients and families, friends, neighbors
and community members every day. In a time when
children often are left out of national decision-making,
we can use our role as advocates for the health and
well-being of all children to tell the stories of what we
see every day.
As a pediatrician who cares for children in immigrant
families, I have the privilege to speak up on their behalf
without endangering them — a privilege that many of
these children and their families don’t have. And I have
hundreds of stories to tell.
Immigrant child health is not just an ongoing humanitarian crisis. It has become a national advocacy emergency. Thus far, President Trump has issued
three executive orders on immigration. These orders
ban travel from six majority Muslim countries to the
United States and freeze refugee resettlement for 120
days; call for construction of a “wall” along the southwestern U.S. border and an increase in border patrol
and detention; and call for changes to enforcement priorities that would punish so-called sanctuary cities and
increase deportation threats across the United States.
One “leaked” order that has not yet been issued would
threaten families with deportation for seeking access
to public benefits, including Medicaid and nutrition
programs, for which they are eligible.
In response, AAP leaders have spoken out in the
media against these individual and cumulative threats
to the health and well-being of immigrant families. As a
pediatrician caring for immigrant and refugee children
and families, I have been empowered to do my part.
Navigating a sea of media requests with limited
media experience, I quickly built a “media emergency
preparedness” kit to help me use the media to advocate
effectively for my patients and their families. Here are
some of the key strategies I have learned:
1. Develop three key messages that you believe
and that will resonate with the public in the way
• Base your statements on evidence and expert
• Ask for guidance from seasoned “
mediatri-cians” (e.g., leaders of the AAP Council on
Communications and Media).
• Be prepared to share patient stories to humanize each message. Be sure the stories are
truthful and protect a family’s confidentiality.
• Practice your messages until you can navigate
questions that may be unexpected.
• Rely on trusted colleagues who represent different backgrounds and political viewpoints
to give you honest feedback and family and
friends who will tolerate hearing you practice
over and over.
2. Coordinate with your institution. If you are
speaking on behalf of the Academy but might
be seen as also representing your institution or
organization, work closely with your employer’s
leadership or media team to determine how you
can be identified. Can you use your institutional
affiliation or rely on your AAP affiliation?
3. Maintain your role as a pediatrician. You are not
a policy expert, you are a child health expert. Your
goal is to provide accurate, thoughtful information that connects policies to child health. Don’t
Weathering the storm: How to use media
to advocate for immigrant children