The organization listed its priorities for the year as a blueprint booklet. The list of policy goals included promoting children’s health, supporting secure families, building strong communities, and ensuring that Missouri as a state is a leader for children.
With immunizations, the Academy intends to increase access, funding, and awareness in and around schools to help parents make informed decisions.
“We’ve been seeing a resurgence in some diseases,” Dr. Maya Moody, the secretary for the organization, told The Missouri Times. “I’d never actually seen a case of measles, so now I’m having to go back through and continue to do medical education in order to recognize some of these previously preventable diseases that are seeing this resurgence.”
Another issue is trauma care and mental health.
“We understand that early childhood toxic stress can have lifelong implications for the health and wellbeing of children,” Moody said. “Children who face homelessness or parents with drug addictions face higher risks of heart attacks and cancer when they are adults, so we’re promoting policies that promote healthy children and families.”
Child safety, including regulation of rear-facing car seats for children, is another topic on the agenda. State law dictates that children under 1 must be in a rear-facing seat, but surrounding states require this until the age of 2. The Academy aims to advocate for legislation updating these requirements in Missouri to fit the accepted standards in other states.
Moody also emphasized the goal of cutting down on minors’ use of vaping and the improvement of tobacco cessation programs.
“Even though we see combustible cigarette usage going down, the e-cigarette use is truly an epidemic with these kids,” Moody said. “The pods have varying levels of nicotine, which could be up to the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes. Since their brains are at such a high level of vulnerability to addiction, they actually get addicted to the nicotine much faster than adults would.”
Also on the agenda is access to nutrition and developmental resources. The MOAAP lists increasing availability of food in schools, better nutritional standards, and improving physical education programs in schools.
“Hungry kids can’t learn. Making sure there is access to healthy food is very important for children’s development,” Moody said. “ The Buddy Backpacks that get sent home over the weekends, that’s the only way that some of my patients get to eat on the weekends because their parents have to put together what money they have to cover rent and the bills.”
MOAAP is also focused on high-quality affordable education, access to Medicaid services, and financial security with an Earned Income Tax Credit.
“We want healthy, productive citizens, so we’ve got to work on some of that high-quality, early education and making sure that our children are not only academically ready but also socially and emotionally ready,” Moody said.