Onward to 2011: the kids are counting on us

Another year come and gone. For some, this is a time to say “good riddance.” For others, there’s sorrow in watching 2010 pass into the history books.

For those involved in health care, the year just past is one of monumental change. Health care took center stage for much of the past two years. In March, President Obama signed the Patient Protection  and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as health care reform.

Although many of us were weary of the debate, we know it’s not over. In fact, in the aftermath of the national elections this past November, we know there’s much more debating ahead.

In a recent commentary in the New England Journal of medicine, Jonathan Oberlander, PhD, says there are enormous legislative, administrative and legal challenges to implementing the reforms. He also points out that despite what the polls may show us today, government health programs, once they are in place, prove to be wildly and widely popular. But first, they must be implemented.

And that will be the challenge in 2011 and beyond. Some lawmakers have vowed to overturn the law. That will be nearly impossible (legislatively) at least for the next two years while President Obama is still in office.  Still, there will be plenty of debating and politicking in the meantime.

One thing we hope does not get lost: children, especially, need access to health care.

We’d also like to encourage those interested in health care to look beyond access and help us focus on quality and improving outcomes. We know we can do better.

As part of this year’s health care reform, and the federal economic stimulus package approved in 2009, there is a lot of emphasis on comparative effectiveness research. That’s the simple-sounding concept of comparing treatments and interventions to figure out which one is best for which patients. It’s not something we’ve done a lot of in medicine, but we’ll be doing more. We need to make sure we do this kind of work to help children as well as adults.

We’ve written a lot in the past 15 months about using the power of “on-line”  social networks to improve the care of children with chronic conditions. Cincinnati Children’s is helping in an effort to connect doctors, patients and lots of information to speed improvement and enhance the care of children no matter where their doctors practice. There is still a lot of work to be done, but lots of great minds are working on it and modern technology is providing unlimited possibilities.

So while the politicos in D.C. haggle over issues in the coming months and years, we will continue to work in our little corner of Ohio to change the outcome for children around the world.

Here’s a toast to the grand promise of the new year: 2011, here we come. The kids are counting on us.

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