The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services and is the principal biomedical research arm of the Federal Government. The NIH is comprised of 27 institutes and centers focused on various health issues facing Americans. The institute that is focused on children’s health issues is the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
It is a very good thing, in my opinion, that the NICHD formed the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch (PTCIB) in 2012. It demonstrates a recognition that, in our nation, one of the most serious public health problems for children is injury, and that injury in children requires and merits some focus by our nation’s most important federally-funded research support structure. I’m very gratified to see that Valerie Maholmes has been appointed as the chief of this division. She has a lifetime of commitment to children, to children’s health issues, children’s injury issues. I believe she will exhibit great leadership for this branch.
In late April, Dr. Maholmes convened a strategic planning group that met in Bethesda to
clarify what its mission should be going forward and to advise the new branch on how it can best accomplish its mission. It was a group of fantastically bright and dedicated people interested in the well-being of children, particularly children’s injury issues. Over the course of two days in multiple brainstorming sessions, the group identified a set of issues and developed a set of recommendations that I think will serve as a great architecture to both define and begin the process of executing the strategic plan for children’s injuries within the branch.
Personally, I believe that all of the parties in our country, who are interested in improving the care for children’s injuries and changing outcomes for the most common cause of death and disability of our children, need to get behind this effort at the NIH. Furthermore, we need to approach this journey with a long-term view.
At its core, pediatric injury is a huge health problem in our country and we need to assist, support and foster this branch with a vision toward its long-term success. Long-term success means it would be a highly-funded source for research information and for convening and deliberating on all research issues that relate to pediatric injuries for our country; a national resource.
It will take years for that vision to be realized; years of research productivity; years of matriculation through the NIH institutes; years of well-meaning grassroots efforts by those of us who are in trauma centers and pediatrician’s offices, and families and churches and synagogues that are interested in making sure that we do something about the plague of death that trauma represents amongst our children.
It’s going to be worth the long-term ride and if we all try to assure the investments that are made are not aimed at short-term studies, short-term turnarounds, short-term goals but, instead, are aimed at long-term, big vision, strategic efforts, I believe this branch will turn out to be something great.
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