Advances in pediatric research have significantly reduced deaths and improved the quality of life for children and families worldwide. Researchers are now poised to achieve even greater medical accomplishments, according to an article co-authored by Dr. Clifford Bogue, professor and interim chair of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine. The article was published in the May issue of Pediatrics on April 21.
In “The Next Seven Great Achievements in Pediatric Research,” Bogue and his co-authors at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health reflect on the progress that has been made and predicts the next great research breakthroughs for children’s health. They are:
- More pediatric immunizations to prevent emerging and persistent diseases
- Cancer immunotherapy
- Genomic discoveries to predict, prevent, and more effectively treat disease
- Life-course data that recognizes fetal and childhood origins of adult disease and provides effective early interventions
- Quality improvement measures for medical care
- Research that is shared and reduces global poverty
Yet the pediatric research field faces challenges, such as the unique effort needed to include children and teens in clinical research, notes the article. In addition, the share of funding provided by the National Institutes of Health — the backbone of pediatric research enterprise at U.S. academic centers — has decreased since 2001 when compared to other specialties, the authors said.
The article emphasizes the need for continued federal support and focus on child health research. Emerging new risks — such as the Zika virus, the ongoing obesity epidemic, and exposure to adverse childhood experiences — threaten to shorten the lifespans of the next generation without a science-based approach, the authors noted.
“The potential for major scientific breakthroughs in child health research has never been greater. And the really exciting thing is that any discoveries that help us identify and treat diseases in children yield a lifetime of positive results. The return-on-investment, both in total dollars saved and on hardship reduced for individuals and families, is unparalleled in research that focuses on children,” said Bogue, who is also chair of the Committee on Pediatric Research at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In 2015, the AAP Committee on Pediatric Research identified the top seven achievements in pediatric research, which were based on responses to an open-ended survey of pediatric professional organization board members. The seven success stories cited were:
- Preventing disease with life-saving immunizations
- Reducing sudden infant death with a “Back to Sleep” campaign
- Finding a cure for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
- Helping premature babies breathe with a specific therapy
- Preventing Human Immunodeficiency Virus transmission from mother to baby
- Increasing the life expectancy for children with Sickle Cell Anemia and Cystic Fibroses and
- Saving lives with car seats and seat belts.