“From the Exam Room to the Living Room”

A Message from Executive Director, Amy Erickson

In some ways, I’ve felt like I’ve been in the eye of command central since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most, I haven’t slowed down since. Although our program has continued because of our incredibly heroic, humble, and dedicated pediatricians on the front line, this collective human tragedy affects everyone in different ways and at different times. We will never be the same.

Our pediatricians have identified additional needs to help serve our families. Each day brings new information as we navigate with our pediatric partners to imagine ways we can amplify our impact. As recently as today, we heard that Georgia would be incrementally reopening some business sectors.

Each day brings new information as we navigate with our pediatric partners to imagine ways we can amplify our impact.

One of those needs is a sense of urgency in launching our intervention to include books starting at the newborn first visit, one-month, two-month, and four-month visit – a long term aspirational goal. We need to act now because of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents of children two years of age and younger keep their child’s immunization appointments due to fear that we would face a worse outbreak due to vaccine-preventable diseases in the future. We want to incentivize parents to keep these appointments for infants through the power of books, targeted information, and new resources specific to Georgia families. What happens during the first few years sets the stage for the rest of a child’s life. This new initiative will also aid us in keeping an eye on older children as they frequently attend doctor visits with their parents, who also receive books at their well visit checkups starting at age six-months through age five. 

Books bring joy to those who give them and to those who receive them. Spending time together while reading aloud helps to create strong parent-child bonds and promotes healthy brain development. We need your help to make this a reality.

We also have been at the center of the formation of a National Task Force focused on Telemedicine. Recently, I joined a call with our longstanding partner the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Office of Prevention and Support, and heard first-hand about the consequence school closures bring to our young children who live in unstable home environments. Reports of suspected abuse and neglect have dropped by 50% since schools closed due to the coronavirus because people who are mandated by state law to report suspicions, including school staff members, are no longer having daily contact with children. 

I imagine our unprecedented access to families will once again be a key differentiator in ways we never predicted going forward. As one pediatrician said, “children remain our paramount priority because the future consequences and the social determinants of health will have a lasting mark on generations to come unlike anything in living history.” We will never be the same as a nation, as individuals or as families, and yet we learn and grow in moments of adversity.

At different times and in different ways depending on the day our collective heart breaks for the devastating loss of life and the ripple effect this pandemic is having and will continue to have, on those populations who struggle already. The short and long-term fallout is yet to be realized and will be crippling and lasting for sure, primarily in minority populations who historically are more affected. My heart hurts for those who are elderly and socially isolated in nursing homes and assisted care facilities, for those who are alone in the hospital, or in a foreign country feeling unsettled, homeless, or have experienced job loss or suffering in ways most can’t imagine. My heart aches for children who are abused or hungry. And for new moms giving birth at a time like this. And, as much as these sad realities are painful to think about, one thing we do know is that there is growth in times like this – and that is what we must focus on – what can we learn, what can we do better, what can change as a result of surviving a worldwide pandemic? I’m still figuring that out. One thing I do know is that in challenging times we draw closer to our families, our faith, and are reminded at our core who we are and, more importantly, what we want to be. 

We can help mitigate future income and education disparities by rising to this collective call of action.

I have an excessive amount of pride and respect for all our pediatric partners across Georgia for their strength, fortitude, and leadership as they navigate the unfamiliar with some of our most vulnerable families to help and heal. We can help mitigate future income and education disparities by rising to this collective call of action.

I invite you to sit quietly for a few minutes and think about what breaks your heart and then ask yourself what can you do to help? What can you do for yourself or others to make a positive difference? You matter to this world. You can make a difference. One person can change the world. 

We will never be the same, and so I encourage you to find a way to make a positive step towards helping fix whatever problem breaks your heart or that motivates you to action. Whatever IT is act on that. If you are interested in helping our organization, supporting families now, and in the future, please consider donating today. To learn more about our mission, impact, and ways to get involved contact; amy.erickson@reachoutandread.org or call 770-401-6852.