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The Whole Child: Children First“Best to believe there will be happily ever afters all the way around – and so there may be; who is to say there will not be such endings?” – author Stephen King

Quoting a horror writer about happy endings may seem odd, but one of the things I’ve always loved about Stephen King is that he ultimately allows the good strand in humanity to triumph, no matter how bleak the circumstances.  I’m a pretty optimistic guy, trying to fill up the glass so it’s always at least half-full.  I work really hard to avoid propagating the doom-and-gloom health and environment messages we are force-fed daily from the media.  Which is why, I am delighted to report, one weekend in San Francisco has renewed my hope for our children, for our future.  And for all you KIWI families out there, it should do the same for you.

Children First: Promoting Ecological Health for the Whole Child
is the title of a ground breaking event I co-hosted with the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE)  and the University of California – San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.  Elise Miller, the Director of CHE and Dr. David Becker, an integrative pediatrician and Assistant Clinical Professor in Pediatrics at UCSF, worked closely with me to develop the symposium, described as follows:

Pediatric Integrative Medicine embraces a holistic, whole-child approach, specifically examining the context – the ecology – in which optimal health and wellness is promoted. This groundbreaking one-day symposium will highlight a range of interacting factors that influence child health and development, including nutrition, education, socio-economic status, exposures to toxic chemicals, and access to preventive health care. Leaders in these fields of expertise will also describe model programs and concrete steps toward creating optimal and sustainable environments in which children can thrive and reach their full potential.

Here’s what I envisioned: one room packed with forward-thinking people of all backgrounds – personally and professionally – committed to making the world a better place for our kids.  Dedicated to or at least interested in the concept of an integrative approach to nurturing the “whole child” – based on ecological sustainability concepts.   In short, a gathering focused on greening our children through the presentation of real-life models by health and environment leaders from around the country.  The day, happily, exceeded even my lofty expectations.  Perhaps most amazing was the incredible synergy evident in the work of our speakers, and echoed in the passions of our audience.  Education, nutrition, nature, greening healthcare, family-centered and culturally sensitive care, collaboration among practitioners and families of all types – these themes ran through everyone’s presentations.  There were too many bright moments to profile them in detail here, so I hope you go to the Children First web page and explore the resources in detail.  These programs are all models of what we can achieve and they give me great hope for the future.  Needless to say, I left the day feeling energized and inspired.   I feel so lucky that I experience this, too, in my day-to-day interactions with families; not everyone can say that, I realize.  But on a more global level, it was incredible to connect with others around the world doing like-minded work.

I awoke the next morning to attend the national American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conference.  My position within the AAP, a vast network of over 50,000 pediatricians, is as chair of the Section on Integrative Medicine.  We work hard to nurture young physicians interested in a more holistic approach, many of whom come to use because the families they are caring for are asking for “greener” pediatric care.  With this in mind, KIWI and the Whole Child Center, my practice, partnered to bring a green flavor to the AAP’s Pediatric Office of the Future exhibit, the first time this futuristic showcase included ecologically sustainable concepts.  After all, the office of the future should be green, right?  You can find out more about how KIWI is leading the way in this arena by checking out the new Green Pediatrician page featuring a five-minute video profile and resources so you can help your pediatrician go green.

Sadly, children don’t always come first.  But they should – you and I know that.  It is neither a luxury nor a choice; it is a moral imperative.  By working together, we can make it so.

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