Senator Kennedy's advocacy for children's health

HealthCareConfDSC_0078Words cannot begin to express the loss that all of us at Children’s Hospital Boston feel at the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy yesterday. As many of you know, Senator Kennedy had a deep personal connection with this hospital as two of his children received care here. He was a regular visitor to the hospital and a warm, welcoming presence for our staff and families when we traveled to Washington.

Obviously, Senator Kennedy’s legislative legacy is too long to summarize here, but it’s important to remember how deeply he cared about the health and welfare of children as one of his very highest priorities. As many have already noted, one of the Senator’s unique features was his willingness to stay on top of issues over long periods of time, and to continue to push incremental changes that added up to big differences. Even a short list of his accomplishments is overwhelming:

  • The creation of Medicaid and the passage of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program (EPSDT) standard which guarantees coverage of essential benefits for low income children has made an enormous difference in improving the health status of the nation’s children
  • The development and passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—which assists uninsured, low-income children—in the 1990s, and its expansion this year, has continued to build momentum towards universal coverage across the nation
  • The passage of the children’s hospitals graduate medical education program assures that freestanding pediatric hospitals receive support for their training missions
  • Decades of work with the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health have helped to  prioritize pediatric research in these agencies
  • Championing mental health parity for children and adults
  • Constant advocacy for children with developmental disabilities and learning needs including creation of the special education and early intervention laws

In my experience, Senator Kennedy was most himself when surrounded by children and with his dogs in tow. View some pictures of some of Senator Kennedy’s visits to Children’s over the years, which reflect his deep spirit and abiding concern for this institution and for the nation’s children. Also watch videos of Senator Kennedy speaking during the annual Family Advocacy Day in 2006 about Children’s role in caring for children, as well as why his dog liked a good walk on the beach.

Also read a Newsweek article about Senator Kennedy’s personal connection to Children’s and his fight for universal health care.

Do you have any personal thoughts or memories of Senator Kennedy and his devotion to and impact on the health of children? Post it in the Comments section below.